Lisa Smith is the Project Director for the Western Health COVID vaccination program. We sat down with her to get a behind the scenes look at what's involved in managing such a large-scale program.
Q. What is Western Health's involvement in the vaccination rollout?
Western Health oversees the West Metropolitan region, managing two high volume sites at Sunshine Hospital and the Melbourne Showgrounds, as well as an outreach service at the Melbourne Airport. Additional hubs are soon to open at Melton and Wyndham. In addition, we also provide governance and supply vaccine to the Royal Melbourne, Royal Children's and Werribee Mercy vaccination sites.
Q. What does your role as Project Director entail?
I provide operational oversight of commissioning and logistics - that is how we get the vaccine here, how much we need, managing the consumables we require, distribution to other services, choosing and setting up sites, and forward planning. Day-to-day is really about problem-solving.
Q. What experience helped prepare you for this role?
My extensive operational background across complex environments made me suitable to take this role. I was previously the Maternity Operations Manager at Western Health for four years, and most recently, the acting Assistant Director of Nursing and Midwifery. I was also heavily involved in developing the processes for COVID contact tracing in wave two in 2020, so this role has been a continuation of being part of the way out of COVID.
Q. What did you have to consider in setting up the hubs?
Scoping out suitable sites in the first instance. We really didn't have much to go on. While we looked overseas for inspiration, the situation there is quite different, so it was left to us as a project team to develop what it would look like regarding infrastructure. That is where extensive clinical operational experience comes into it. As we were the first hospital to set up a mass vaccination hub, many other organisations came to us looking for inspiration. If you were to go to the other hubs, you would see that other sites are mostly a variation of what we have done. We are very proud of that.
Q. What have been some of the logistical challenges?
Initially, it was the pace and the urgency and so many competing demands. Our first hub was the Melbourne Airport which opened on February 22. We had just four weeks to set it up. Probably the biggest challenge has been starting from nothing and relying on overseas experience. I'm fortunate to work with such a fantastic team with a 'can do' attitude. We just got in and got it done.
Q. What about the positives?
There have been lots of positives. For me, it's about being a part of the solution. That my kids can see that I have had some significant input. More operationally – the amazing people here at Western Health that I have worked with and the new relationships I have formed—collaborating with other health services and working closely with the Department of Health to lead this key strategy.