October 15, 2020

Burnside War Memorial Hospital and the changing nature of healthcare

COVID-19 has affected everyone at some level, be it physically or mentally, and commentators are clear that it will permanently change healthcare consumer habits and expectations well into the future.

One person dramatically affected by the pandemic is Maria, a 49-year-old dental nurse, who in late December 2019 started to feel unwell. Maria explains her life-changing journey. 

“My gut was telling me that something was not quite right. It was nearing Christmas time and we had three weeks off work coming up, so I said I will deal with it then. My husband had just returned from working overseas the week before Christmas, and just before the New Year, within a week of me feeling unwell, I started to feel really, really sick. I knew something was wrong.”

Maria visited her GP who referred her to see Burnside Hospital’s Professor Martin Oehler, Gynaecologist & Gynaecological Oncologist. 

Maria had ovarian cancer. 

Within a week and a half of first meeting Professor Oehler, Maria walked into Burnside Hospital’s Brian Fricker Oncology Centre on January 31, 2020 for her first round of chemotherapy.  

“I held my husband’s hand tightly as we approached the front reception counter. I’ll never forget walking into the Oncology Centre and thinking how calming and light-filled the room was. The clerical staff and oncology nurses greeted me with the warmest of smiles, and as I fought back the tears, I instantly felt safe. I knew that their compassion, competence and patience would help me get through this.”

At this time, the COVID-19 pandemic was quickly evolving and Burnside Hospital’s Executive Leadership Team, coupled with the Medical Executive Committee, were carefully monitoring the quickly changing situation. 

One of the many changes made at the hospital to ensure everyone’s safety was the restriction of visitors within the hospital and support people in the Oncology Centre.

Fortunately, Maria’s husband was able to attend her first chemotherapy session. He was able to walk with her upstairs, meet the wonderful nurses who would be there to support her through her journey, and settle her for her chemotherapy session. He felt reassured knowing Maria was in the best hands.


As the days and weeks passed, Maria and her family sat glued to the TV, watching as the COVID-19 situation quickly turned for the worse. COVID-19 wasn’t going anywhere and it was clear this global pandemic was going to have a serious effect on the world and how healthcare would be delivered in the future.  

Maria then faced her ongoing chemotherapy treatments alone, without her husband and her father – her biggest fans were no longer able to keep her company.  

Maria completed her final chemotherapy session on Friday, August 21, 2020. She feels stronger now mentally and feels grateful for every single day.

Burnside War Memorial Hospital had to be agile when the pandemic began and the hospital has seen rapid changes in the way patients access and consume healthcare services. As a result, the hospital has made some subtle but important changes to how we deliver patient care, manage the health and wellbeing of our staff, and interact with our medical community. 

Maria’s story is just one of hundreds that we see each day here at the not-for-profit Burnside Hospital. 

With no government funding, every surplus dollar is reinvested back into the hospital to continue to help and provide support to patients like Maria. 

Find out more about how you can support Burnside Hospital.

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