Doctor awarded for outstanding COVID-19 preparation

07 December 2020

Dr Melksham pictured with The Wesley Hospital General Manager, Sean Hubbard and Director Medical Services, Adjunct Professor James (Jim) Houston.

Dr Phillip Melksham has been awarded the Dr Jon Douglas Award, for his significant contribution to The Wesley Hospital’s COVID-19 response, through strategy, preparation and training of anaesthetists, nursing staff and perioperative teams.

Early in 2020, fearing Australia’s medical system would soon be exposed to the COVID crisis, Dr (Phil) Melksham noted that preparedness was the best defence in managing COVID-19 patients and protecting health workers.

With the assistance of Dr Paul Bartley, Prof. Bala Venkatesh and The Wesley, Dr Melksham implemented a COVID training program for anaesthetists and theatre staff - eventually training more than 1400 surgical staff and nurses in the safe management of COVID cases at The Wesley Hospital.

One nomination from Dr Melksham’s colleagues recalls: “If one thinks back to that time, the predicted infection rate was to be overwhelming for the healthcare system, the public hospitals were not performing any elective surgery in anticipation of this, and the private hospital system was preparing for, and expecting, overflow.

“As soon as it became apparent that we were facing a possible serious viral pandemic, Phil took it upon himself to prepare the peri-operative team at The Wesley for the intricacies of managing a COVID positive (case) for surgery.”

Dr Melksham voluntarily coordinated training in best-practice principles for COVID positive theatre preparation, personal protective equipment, admission, induction, intubation, maintenance of anaesthesia, extubation and post-operative care.

Another nomination said: “Phil personally wrote, organised and in most cases delivered scenario-based teaching modules for his anaesthetic colleagues. He worked closely with the theatre and ICU nurse educators in this process, also ensuring that nursing and medical staff had trained together in these simulation sessions.”

One of Dr Melksham’s colleagues said these education sessions became the most sought-after for all Visiting Medical Practitioners (VMPs) because of their quality compared to other options. 

“There was a high degree of anxiety in theatre in the first quarter of the year that began to be alleviated, in part, with the confidence acquired through the knowledge and practice of these sessions."

 “Throughout this stressful time Phil was a wonderful leader, mobilising and encouraging his colleagues. We were all very stressed by what unfolded in the Northern Hemisphere in the early days of the pandemic; but had the worst unfolded in Brisbane we would have been as well-prepared as anybody to deal with it.

 “I’ve been a VMP at The Wesley for 12 years and I’ve seen several excellent anaesthetists contribute impressively to this hospital. Without in any way belittling their contributions, what Phil has done this year is quite remarkable.”

General Manager of The Wesley Hospital Sean Hubbard thanked Dr Melksham for his outstanding contribution:

“2020 has brought many challenges and I have witnessed many VMPs deserving recognition for their efforts in assisting the hospital navigate the pandemic. Dr Melksham’s efforts are exemplary and The Wesley is honoured to have him by our side.”

The Dr Jon Douglas Award is awarded annually to a Visiting Medical Practitioner (VMP) who has made an outstanding contribution to The Wesley Hospital.

The award is named after Dr Jonathan Brookes Douglas AM, who was a Consultant Physician in Internal Medicine for over 40 years. He has held a long association with The Wesley Hospital including Board Chairman for six years and Chairman of the Medical Advisory Committee

Previous recipients include Dr Ranald Pascoe, A/Prof John Allan, Dr Paul Bartley (Jnr), Dr Bruce Lewis, Dr Simon Fleming, Dr Luis Prado and Dr Noel Saines.

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