Darrin Eade joined the Ministry of Health as an Australian College of Health Service Management trainee in 2009 – the year swine flu first hit our shores. He was quickly roped into our system’s pandemic response then, and is now playing his part in COVID-19 operations now.

Darrin took some time out from his busy role for a quick chat. Find out what he has to say.

In non-pandemic times, what is your role at the Ministry?

I am the Manager for Oral Health Services and Strategic Planning at the Centre for Oral Health Strategy. I manage the administration, policy and planning of public dental activity in our local health districts – this includes dental services in hospitals, community centres and through the mobile dental program that goes to NSW primary schools.

What are you doing now as part of the COVID-19 response?

I’ve been part of NSW Health’s COVID-19 response since the end of January.

I’m currently the Health Liaison Officer at the Police Operations Centre in Surry Hills. I’m essentially the conduit between police operations and other organisations involved in the pandemic response. I troubleshoot, provide advice, seek advice and come up with practical solutions.

Prior to this, I was in logistics in the PHEOC (Public Health Emergency Operations Centre), looking after supplies of equipment, support to health field teams, orientation of new staff, catering – all those practical, ‘ensure stuff happens’ kind of things.

Have you been involved in anything like this before?

I actually joined the Ministry as a health management trainee in 2009 when swine flu first hit. I was working in the clinical policy unit and helped operate the Ministry call centre during that time.

I was also in the Emergency Response Coordination Unit in the Office of the Chief Health Officer for about five years, doing planning, education and infrastructure development in anticipation of something like this happening.

Given your background and experience in this space, have there been any surprises about how the pandemic has unfolded?

Every day is a new day. The information is constantly changing, so the more we learn about the virus, the more the way we respond changes too.

In all this while, what sticks out in your mind about how the system has responded to this pandemic?

That we in NSW – and Australia – have an amazing health system full of very smart people. I think the government response has been pretty incredible all things considered, and the community response has also been quite amazing. It’s a credit to all!

It’s also quite a privilege to be able to work with some incredible people and teams across many organisations. The situation has evolved so quickly, and everyone is working really hard to make it all work.

You have a good idea of what’s happening on the ground. What do you tell family and friends?

My friends and family text and ring me all the time for secret intel – ‘Should I panic?’ ‘Should I stockpile toilet paper?’

I tell them to keep calm. They know where I work. If there’s something to worry about, I will let them know.

A lot of friends have lost work – their industries have just collapsed – and I really feel for them. To be able to keep working and to be able to help make a difference is a cool spot to be in.

What’s your message to your colleagues across the system?

We are in this very uncertain environment where we are all worried about family, friends and our own situations, so it’s important to be kind to one another.

It’s also important that we use our skills and knowledge to make a meaningful contribution. I’m reminded of something one of the Dep Secs mentioned early in my time at the Ministry – ‘those of us who can should and must for those who can’t.’

Work can be pretty intense right now. If you have a spare moment, how do you unwind?

Eat. Drink. Keep busy. I’m renovating an apartment that we moved into in March this year so there’s plenty to do.

I also go for a walk in Centennial Park with almost every other Sydneysider – practicing social distancing, of course.​

Current as at: Wednesday 29 April 2020
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW