Lessons from the 2020 pandemic in Ballarat

In part two of The Courier’s Ballarat unmasked series, our CEO Sean Duffy shares his lessons from the 2020 pandemic and how it has impacted our community.

What has a tough year like 2020 taught us about our city?

The commitment to healthy lifestyle. The vast majority of people in Ballarat did what was needed, even at times when it didn’t make a lot of logic.

In rural settings it might have been less obvious, but in Ballarat you could see the effort and that now suggested it has worked.

What in your mind was the standout effort during 2020?

The standout effort for me, certainly in health, was in continuing to deliver services, from primary care, mental health, alcohol and other drugs and some chronic disease care. We have had to completely transform services. The majority of services have not stopped, albeit they have looked very different.

We support a lot of people with chronic conditions and we support a lot of people with enduring and complex mental health conditions – those services could not stop during a pandemic. We needed to innovate otherwise a large section of the community would realise other big health problems.

Will Ballarat be a better place after the pandemic, how?

Yes. From what I’ve seen, perhaps the more concentrated effort in supporting local and the notion of what is considered local is a real passion for many now.

There have also been some things about Ballarat we have otherwise taken for granted in open spaces and exercise and the social determinants of health in access to education, employment, basic fundamentals to good health. Ballarat affords us that:good education, good health, and we don’t have the extreme unemployment levels of other places but it is still a concern.

Ballarat allows us to social distance without too much trouble. There is space like rural areas but, as this city continues to grow and develop, space allows us to expand without losing this. We do not have to be living on top of each other.

What would you like to see retained from the pandemic and built on in 2021?

A continuation to innovate in terms of the ways we deliver services. In health, this includes utilising telehealth and a mix of other methods to reach people.

I know there have been extensive waiting lists and cancellations, like in elective surgery, but this is an opportunity to continue to do some services differently.

Also to continue to have a better work-life balance. Of course there was absolute frustration in continually being stuck at home but we became more aware of balance. A good work-life balance is an essential ingredient for mental health and well-being. These are social determinants for good health going into the future.

Read the full article on The Courier here.

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