End of an era for retiring trio

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St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital in Brisbane is saying farewell to staff with more than a century of combined service.

Clinical nurse manager Liz Bergstrum, director of corporate services Arthur Henderson and patient administration manager Lyn Greener are all retiring within a few weeks of each other.

Together, the trio has 108 years of service to the hospital.

Liz started as an endorsed enrolled nurse in 1979, but had to resign in 1983 and then again in 1989 when she had children.

“There was no maternity leave, you simply had to resign in those days,” she said.

“When I started at St Andrew’s, I started in the nursing home, before moving into theatre, where I stayed until 1989.

“After completing my degree, I worked on the eye ward which then became a general surgical ward as eye patients tended to become day or overnight only.

“Over the years I have seen St Andrew’s more than triple in size and I never cease to be amazed at the resilience of St Andrew’s staff, who take everything in their stride and just get on with the job.”

Liz said her years of experience came in handy when the hospital suffered “technical difficulties”.

“My young staff had a panic about how to work offline without all our systems,” she said.

“I just showed them how we used to do things before the internet! For years we didn’t email, we simply picked up the phone or walked to whomever we needed to talk to.”

Liz said she would miss the camaraderie among the staff and daily contact with patients.

“My plans were to travel, and still are, but obviously limited to Australia and New Zealand for the time being,” she said. 

“I am lucky that I have travelled quite extensively overseas, so checking out my own backyard will be  great.

“I am also looking forward to having more time to spend with my two grandsons and catching up with family and friends – I have quite a few friends who have retired, so I don’t think my social life will suffer.”

Arthur started work at St Andrew’s in 1987 as the hospital accountant, and was appointed by the “formidable” longtime CEO Pixie Annat.

“In the early days, everyone knew everyone and you could say it was just like a family,” he said.

“Miss Annat was quite a force and made a lasting impression on me because of her kind and caring nature. 

“She remains a family friend to this day and an ardent follower of my son’s operatic career. 

“In those days, Miss Annat had a red light/green light system outside of her office and you most certainly didn’t knock or interrupt at all if the red light was on! 

“However, if my young son happened to be in the hospital, he’d run straight to Pixie’s office and barge right in, taking no notice of the lights and she would welcome him with open arms. 

“Pixie set a wonderful example of how to treat people in the best possible way and I think that’s why she led such a great hospital.”

Arthur has held a number of positions during his time at the hospital, including director of finance, director of finance and IT, and finally director of corporate services.

“The significant things that changed over time have included computers and the internet, and a few new buildings,” he said.

“Just as Liz mentioned, prior to computers being installed we would simply talk with our staff instead of sending a number of emails. 

“The first computer system was installed in the hospital on 1 January, 1988. It had to be in place ready for the New Year and it was quite an event. It took ages to dial in to the internet and we used to back up the system three times a day.”

Arthur said he had also enjoyed working with the St Andrew’s Auxiliary and had just finished his 35th consecutive annual audit for the organisation.

“It has been a pleasure working with such a dedicated group of people whose sole aim is to raise funds for the benefit of the hospital,” he said.

“I will definitely miss the people here and the camaraderie that makes St Andrew’s a truly great hospital. I will miss having my office outside the doctors' lounge and having them pop in, normally to complain! 

“But I definitely won’t miss the IT hassles."

Arthur said he had yet to make any big plans for his retirement.

"My wife Shirley has plenty of plans for me, but I’m just happy to see what happens. 

“No doubt there will be lots of international travel when the borders re-open, and I am really looking forward to my son’s debut performance at the Sydney Opera House in January 2022.”

Lyn originally only came to St Andrew’s for a six-week stint in 1987 to work as a debt collector.

She recalls that short placement turned out very different from her original expectations.

“The retiring accountant, Tom Laurie – who Arthur replaced – offered me a permanent job and told me I had to start the very next day,” Lyn said, laughing.

“I explained that the next day was my birthday and I wasn’t planning on working, to which he said that if I wanted the job I had to start then!

“So I worked in the debt-collecting role for a short time before I took over the front office administration role – we have more than 60 staff in the team now, compared to all those years ago.

“In those days, we were jack of all trades, we worked across all departments, the wards, the emergency centre, front admin – you name it, we could do it.

“I still encouraging multi-skilling today as it gives the team much greater depth.”

It hasn’t been all work and no play, though.

“I do recall fondly one night my colleague Maureen McKinley and I were still in the hospital at around 2am and we were pretty tired, but decided to push each other up and down the corridors in a wheelchair – I mean, who was going to see us?” Lyn said.

“Turns out Pixie Annat had been called into the hospital for an emergency situation and as we rounded a corner, there she was in her dressing gown! 

“All she said was, ‘We’ll talk in the morning’.”

Lyn also recalled losing power for three days and nights during the 1990s.

“It was a complete nightmare,” she said.

“But as usual nothing was too hard for our staff, who formed a chain to ferry food around the hospital. 

“Everything was done manually and people just got in and helped. Many of us didn’t go home for days and we set up a special room to rest, shower and change.”

She said technology had been the biggest change during her years at St Andrew’s.

“Everything we did prior to computers was all manual and when you think about it, we weren’t taught how to use computers at school, we just had to learn,” Lyn said.

“I will also miss the people here. I have enjoyed developing our team and helping people find their place. I definitely won’t miss the midnight phone calls!

“My plans for retirement are to downsize our lifestyle and be able to stop and smell the roses. 

“I want to spend more time with my grandchildren and travel when we can.”

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