BASS Coast Health (BCH) was thrilled to welcome a senior nursing leader to the role of operations director for Emergency, short stay unit, perioperative services and maternity services.

Fiona Christensen brings extensive nursing skills to this important senior role, and her international experience in managing the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic, and larger healthcare services, has been embraced by all her new colleagues.

Born in Ireland, Fiona qualified as a nurse in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and specialised in general and breast surgery before moving to Australia in 2006.

She worked at Alice Springs Hospital for 12 years, predominantly in perioperative services and patient flow management.

Fiona was most recently an assistant director of nursing at Letterkenny University Hospital in County Donegal in Ireland – a hospital that treated patients with COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic.

“Everything I learnt there I’ve brought to Bass Coast Health,” Fiona said.

“In Ireland, we unfortunately didn’t have vaccination rollout until December 2020 so our initial and subsequent outbreaks of COVID-19 in 2020 put immense pressure on the Irish healthcare system,” she said.

“We had a lot of COVID-19 presentations, and we were the main receiving hospital.

“Our nearest tertiary facility was three-and-a-half hours away.

“Surgery stopped and we had significant pressure on our acute services including the intensive care unit.

“We are in a much better position at BCH with our vaccination levels both at BCH and in the community.”

While Fiona is playing an important role in BCH’s ongoing preparation for the pandemic, she is most excited about the new emergency department and operating theatres, which are being built within the Wonthaggi Hospital expansion project.

“We will go from six cubicles in the current emergency department and four short-stay beds, to 22 beds in the new emergency department and short-stay unit, plus a fast-track area and procedure room,” she said.

“Theatre and recovery space will grow from our current two theatres to four.”

Along with her Australian husband and three children, Fiona has relocated to South Gippsland to be close to her husband’s family.

“I am really pleased to be working as part of the BCH team as we increase the services we offer to our local community,” she said.

The Wonthaggi Hospital expansion is progressing on time, and on budget, and the current emergency department is busier than ever, BCH said.