New HESTA awards recognise healthcare’s unsung heroes

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Frontline health workers have received much-deserved praise during the COVID-19 pandemic, but a new awards program seeks to recognise care professionals whose achievements may not gain the same profile.

The inaugural HESTA Excellence Awards shine a spotlight on the disability, allied health, aged care and community services sectors.

Eight winners will be named across the four areas, split into two sub-categories – Outstanding Organisation and Team Excellence – with a total prize pool of $60,000.

“Every day professionals working across these sectors deliver outstanding care and support for Australians, improving their quality of life,” HESTA CEO Debby Blakey said. 

“From providing rehabilitation therapy, counselling or personal care to alleviating poverty and disadvantage, these are just a few examples of the excellent work these professionals do that makes a real difference to people’s lives.”

The initiative was welcomed by Lara Fernandez, Stroke and Neuro Programs Manager at MetroRehab in Sydney.

“Often allied health are not recognised as ‘frontline’ workers. However it is the input from allied health that ensures the throughput in the inpatient setting and safe discharge planning to prevent readmission that is often overlooked.

“Ongoing outpatient therapy to further improve, prevent relapse, maintain gains and prevent hospital admission also impact on the health system, and this is not often recognised. The fact that HESTA are looking at recognising the contribution of allied health is fantastic,” she said.

Ms Fernandez, an occupational therapist, said most allied health workers join the industry because of a desire to help people.

“The need to be holistic, have a creative approach, be person centred and have a ‘can do’ approach is essential,” she added.

Private hospitals employ around 10,000 allied health workers, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data for 2018-19, and Ms Fernandez said the need for more specialists – such as neurological-trained therapists – is becoming acknowledged.

“There has been an increase in the number of universities offering courses. Research for evidenced-based practice is increasing and the need for this to be completed is being recognised,” she said.

Nominations for the 2020 HESTA Excellence awards close on Sunday 2 August, with the finalists to be named on Tuesday 20 October.

The awards ceremony will be held in Melbourne on Thursday 26 November, subject to COVID-19 safety restrictions.

The eight winners will each receive $7,500 for further education, service or team development from HESTA Awards sponsor, online bank ME.

For more information or to submit a nomination, visit the awards website.

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