Amitha Mather joined NSW Health nine months ago, when returning to Australia from Asia where she lived with her family for 12 years. As the Assistant Director for HealthShare NSW’s Health and Wellbeing team, Amitha leads a team dedicated to supporting staff through the pandemic.

Amitha took time out of her busy day to provide us with an insight into her work. Read what she had to say.

What did you do prior to starting with NSW Health?

I started in Sales and Marketing and then retrained as a Nutritionist whilst we were overseas.

I have always been very passionate about health and I am excited to be now working back in a field that is delivering practical programs to help people not just stay well but actually improve their mental and physical health.

It’s so inspiring to work with people every day that make such a difference to people’s lives.

What is your role in the COVID-19 response?

Being well at work

As the reality and true scale of the COVID-19 became clear, we quickly realised that our Health and Wellbeing team had the skill-set and energy to step up and help with counselling services for staff and their families, as well as wellness programs for people suddenly working from home and in the vital area of vaccinations.

Specific COVID programs include helping staff cope with change by running virtual mindfulness sessions, setting up a COVID-19 Hotline for advice and assistance and administering flu vaccinations with social distancing measures in place. We have adapted to make sure we can continue to deliver the best possible support to our staff, while responding to a rapidly-changing environment.

Prior to COVID, our hotline was managed by seven nurses, but post-pandemic this has grown to 20 staff operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Now more than ever, staff need calm reassurance, a friendly voice and if it’s needed, a helping hand.

Mental Health support

We communicated at least twice weekly with staff and manager newsletters with updates, links and information about webinars, support lines they or their family could call, as well as articles and podcasts to help them develop strategies for coping with stress and change. We are now working on a Post Pandemic Mental Health Plan to see how we can support our employees in the coming months or longer.

Fast tracking employment processes

To ensure frontline contingent workers could continue to be employed, the Staff Health Team ran onsite clinics. The screening process typically happens online and can take quite a while for candidates and workforce staff to work through. 

Running the processes face-to-face meant we could reduce that timeframe and get people on site and supporting our health workforce as quickly as possible.

How many staff does your team support?

Our team looks after the health and wellbeing of more than 10,000 employees in HealthShare and eHealth NSW and the Pillars.

Have you been involved in anything like this before?

We are living in extraordinary times and I don’t think anyone could have predicted or felt well-prepared to deal the impact of this global pandemic on our lives.

My nutritionist training and deep interest in mental health issues has taught me you cannot separate mental and physical health and well-being. I am proud to work for HealthShare, an organisation that believes in doing everything they can to support and educate staff to take good care of themselves.

How would you describe your work and the impact you’re making?

What greater purpose is there than knowing you’re helping people, especially during a crisis like this.

The anxiety created by frightening media reports and rumours on social media is very real. We have been able to provide a sense of calm and trusted advice for those that come to us. Some have had partners test positive to COVID or they are worried if they work directly with patients that they will infect their families, so we can help them understand the facts, the true level of risk and make sure they are getting all the help they need.

Many have said to us they call because they know we are colleagues and NSW Health staff; so we understand and take very seriously their professional, emotional and physical concerns.

Staff are dealing with a lot of change at work and at home so we are doing everything we can do make sure they’re supported and looked after.

What’s your biggest learning to date?

I have been so inspired by how everyone has come together with a strong sense of public duty and care. It is incredible how much can be achieved when you share a common purpose. I am privileged to be part of this team who are so united in their passion to help our colleagues and each other through all of this.

What’s your wellbeing advice to friends and family?

I tell people to take a break from the news, stick with the physical distancing recommendations and make sure they continue practising hand hygiene. I also think it’s important to use this time wisely. Exercise regularly, eat well and enjoy the time spent with family and partners.

It’s an extraordinary and challenging time so you need to do something every day that gives you joy – even if it is for a few minutes - whether that’s reading a book, exercising, playing a game with your kids or painting a room.

How do you unwind if and when you get a spare moment?

I’ve always tried to find 30 minutes of time for myself, although sometimes that’s late at night and after my children are in bed. I love to run, that keeps me balanced and calm. I also enjoy baking healthy cakes and watching my kids eat them!

What’s your message to colleagues across the system?

Take time out for yourself. Don’t get overwhelmed and call us if you need help or just want to talk. HealthShare NSW hotline is operating seven days a week, 24 hours a day - we’re here for you. To speak with someone from the Wellbeing team, contact the WHS Assist Line on (02) 8644 2323 and select option 5.​

Current as at: Wednesday 17 June 2020
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW