Central Gippsland Health’s new medical director, Doctor Divyanshu ‘Divy’ Dua, is steadfast in improving Wellington Shire’s major health and aged care service provider’s capabilities.

Dr Divy, together with Central Gippsland Health (CGH) chief executive Mark Dykgraaf, are working hard to strengthen the local healthcare system, implementing new healthcare objectives and redirecting Wellington Shire’s major health and aged care service provider’s focus of care to support the community’s needs better.

The pandemic posed a significant challenge to our healthcare system, with COVID-related matters, from vaccinations and preventative care to diagnosis, treatment and management, rising to the top of the priority list.

“We’ve clearly had a big focus on COVID for the last number of years,” Mr Dykgraaf said.

“We are a big aged care provider with four nursing homes – Heyfield, two in Maffra and one in Sale – and where our COVID response has been biggest over the last 18 months is in our nursing homes, having had a series of outbreaks to manage.”

CGH remain COVID-ready, with preventative and precautionary measures remaining in place across health and aged care sites. Still, with COVID-induced pressures gradually declining, Wellington Shire’s major health and aged care service provider is becoming increasingly free to address areas of care to fit the requirements of their community.

Following extensive community consultation, CGH’s service provision focus includes strengthening surgery services and capabilities, mental health and care of the acutely unwell child.

“Divy and the team have been doing a lot of work on our endoscopy waiting lists, and we’ve happily been able to bring those down by about 300 over the last number of months,” Mr Dykgraaf said.

“We are working hard with our partners across Gippsland through the health service partnership to get waiting lists down.”

CGH is contributing to Victoria’s new Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission, formally established on September 1 under the Mental Health and Wellbeing Act 2022, by strengthening skills and abilities and further educating staff on how to care for individuals with mental health-related ED presentations.

“Mental health is a significant focus for us,” Mr Dykgraaf said.

“Latrobe Health Services leads that work in terms of the royal commission response, but we ourselves have said how can we strengthen the skills and abilities of our team in terms of people who might turn up in ED with mental health presentation.

“We have also been doing quite a bit of work in the care of the acutely unwell child, which has involved work in our ED, in our Women’s and Children’s Unit and running a very solid education program.

“So we’ve really been trying to strengthen our services in a number of key areas.”

Wellington Shire community can also expect to see developments through CGH’s Capital Works Program.

“We finished Stage Two redevelopment works at Stretton Park last year,” Mr Dykgraaf said.

“We are doing significant works renovation works at Heyfield Hospital over in The Lodge. We are about to commence expansion adjacent to the ED. We will be putting in a CT scanner, four new beds adjacent to that CT scanner, and we will also be putting in the behavioural assessment room.”

Behavioural assessment rooms can effectively manage patients exhibiting aggression in hospital emergency departments, maximising the safety of staff, patients and others.

The main emergency department has equipment that aggressive patients can potentially harm themselves or others with and stimuli that may exacerbate their agitation.

Behavioural assessment rooms provide a separate space away from the main emergency department area, where a multidisciplinary team can work and provide privacy for patients while the situation is assessed and appropriately managed.

These rooms can reduce the risk of injury for the patient and staff, facilitate a more positive patient experience, and reduce distress to other patients and visitors in the emergency department.

“The behavioural assessment room will be built next to the ED, enabling us to manage any health patients with acute psychosis or people who are dealing with a dementia-related illness more safely,” Mr Dykgraaf said.

CGH has also commenced planning with the Department of Health for the $70 million rebuild of Maffra Hospital.

“At the moment, all going well, it looks like building works will be underway in 2027, with very early timelines of being finished in 2028,” Mr Dykgraaf said.

“That will involve a complete rebuild of the nursing home, so 30 beds there and a revamp of the old nursing home into a more modern hospital.

“The last piece of capital works which is about to commence is at Wilson Lodge, our nursing home here in Sale,” he said.

“We are turning one of the common areas there into a café for the residents, and it will also be street-facing, so we will be able to sell cups of coffee to our local community.”

Central Gippsland Health’s new medical director, Doctor Divyanshu’ Divy’ Dua, with chief executive Mark Dykgraaf. Photo: Zoe Askew

Dr Divy was appointed director of medical services at CGH seven months ago and maintains the clinical dean position with the Monash Rural Sale campus. He is also a visiting medical oncologist at the Latrobe Regional Health Service.

Dr Divy was a consultant oncologist and chair of oncology at Canberra Hospital before his role as CGH director of medical services.

Dr Divy is a fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), who trained in internal medicine and medical oncology in Australia before completing a clinical fellowship in drug development, early phase trials and thoracic malignancies at Guy’s Hospital and the Sarah Cannon Research Institute in London, United Kingdom.

Thoracic malignancies, including lung cancer, mesothelioma and thymoma, remain of significant clinical interest to Dr Divy, with a particular interest in the treatment of Genitourinary malignancies, specifically prostate cancer, malignant melanoma, CNS tumours and breast cancer.

In his capacity as CGH director of medical services, Dr Divy has placed a strong emphasis on medical workforce recruiting.

“We’ve had significant success in the emergency department with new recruitment and have managed to recruit to capacity,” Dr Divy said.

CGH has employed 52 new junior doctors since Dr Divy assumed the director of medical services role.

“In 2019, we employed 19 junior doctors, we’ve gone to 52 in 2023,” Dr Divy said.

“So that is the scale we have achieved within our own workforce.

“With junior doctors, it’s not just numbers. It comes with accommodation, it comes with teaching, and every doctor you have in training comes with separate requirements, supervision requirements. You are dealing with multiple colleges at a time; it’s not just employment. There is a lot of bodywork that needs to happen.

“We are strongly working towards education training, especially the ED doctors, making sure they have all the skills, all the opportunities, doing everything we can to help them promote in terms of education and training,” he said.

“Our idea is workforce retention, which in regional areas has always been an issue, so we are working very hard to make sure they are all well looked after, they have all the training opportunities, they’ve got a career pathway so that they can actually stay here and serve the community.

“Same principals we’ve applied for a lot of other specialities as well, and we are trying to strengthen our own workforce so that we are self-sufficient.”

While CGH focuses on strengthening its internal service capabilities, Dr Divy recognises the need to collaborate strongly with visiting specialists.

“We still have a lot of specialists coming in from Melbourne, tertiary hospitals that we are in close collaboration with,” Dr Divy said.

“The tertiary hospitals and cardiology services, especially.”

Strengthening CGH’s workforce and service capabilities and fostering a strong relationship with visiting specialists enables Wellington Shire’s major health and aged care service provider to deliver the best care possible.

The Health Service Partnership, which sees Gippsland health providers work together on several strategic system priorities, has also bolstered CGH’s quality of care and service provision.

“Every regional health facility has got a challenge when it comes to recruiting,” Dr Divy said.

“We are also fighting with the COVID outcomes within the workforce; we are fighting for the same pool of doctors within the same organisation. So we are of the belief that within Gippsland, all the healthcare facilities work together, not working in competition.”

CGH is now receiving evidence of the benefits of Health Service Partnerships.

“It has made life a lot easier,” Dr Divy said.

“We are starting to see early signs where we are actually working with the other health care facilities. We are trying to collaborate; there are multiple networks. In the last six months, I’ve attended the surgical and oncology network for the region.

“The other thing is we are looking at what services one facility has, what service the other has and work together so we are not in direct competition, which makes recruitment a lot easier.

“I think there is a lot more push going forward working together as a region, not just concentrating on one service.”

While CGH continues to strengthen and broaden service provisions, Mr Dykgraaf believes the Wellington Shire community can assist them in providing the highest quality health care.

“We’ve been very much strengthening our community engagement, which is still continuing,” Mr Dykgraaf said.

“We have a whole number of volunteers working in our aged care facilities and here at the hospital.

“So, if you are interested in lending a hand, we would love to hear from members of the community through our Community Liasion Committee.”

For more information about CGH’s Community Liasion Committee, call a Community Network and Volunteer Support Officer on 5143 8833.