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Big year leading Wide Bay COVID response

Dr Conroy
Dr Niall Conroy and wife Michelle enjoying a Mammino ice cream

It’s been a busy year for Niall Conroy who took on a role as public health physician in January, just in time to lead the Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service’s COVID-19 response.

The affable Irishman walked into the beginning of a global pandemic and had to hit the ground sprinting in what everyone kept on saying would need to be a marathon effort.

Based in Hervey Bay, Dr Conroy’s role – and the work of the WBHHS Public health Unit – covers all of the Wide Bay.

Dr Conroy has maintained a frenetic pace ever since, with barely a day off during what will doubtless end up being one of the most memorable years of his life – not least because he and wife Michelle are expecting their first baby just in time for Christmas.

“This year has brought challenges for all health services across the world, and probably brought a greater focus on public health than we’ve seen for some time,” the 43-year-old said.

“It’s difficult to explain the scale of work that’s been required throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not just about confirming and treating positive cases, and contact tracing and containment – although they’re obviously incredibly important. But they’re probably the most visible parts of our pandemic response.

“A lot of the other work that’s gone on behind the scenes has included supporting our own facilities as well as a range of other health and other community service providers with preparation and response plans, making sure public events have had effective COVIDSafe management plans in place, and helping our local businesses and organisations to manage in the new operating environment.

“On top of all this, our Public Health Unit needed to be able to continue all the other work we do on a regular basis, such as food and water safety, immunisations and other communicable disease management.”

That effort hasn’t been without reward, though.

So far, there have been just 25 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the region, thanks in part to strong planning and rapid and comprehensive health service responses – including a positive case in a farm worker in Bundaberg, requiring multiple people to be quarantined and mass rounds of testing.

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