Day of celebration for those who stepped up in the crisis


Doing their bit – Whanganui DHB dental staff Greer Dix, Page Bill, Michelle Polkinghorne and Janet Mallett.

14 October 2020


The sterling work of allied health professionals has been celebrated around the world … with Whanganui staff among those earning accolades.


Wednesday 14 October was World Allied Health Professional’s Day, a chance to salute people working across at least 43 professions in New Zealand.


The day has its origins in the United Kingdom after a dietician and speech therapist first had the idea and has since been taken up as an international day of recognition and appreciation.


“Today’s a chance to raise awareness of how these professions contribute to New Zealand’s health and disability sector,” says Chief Allied Health Professions Officer Dr Martin Chadwick.


“New Zealand’s response to COVID-19 has seen thousands of health professionals across the country working tirelessly to help minimise and prevent the spread of COVID-19.


“I’ve heard stories of dental staff in Whanganui who, when faced with a forced leave of absence as a result of Alert Level 4, volunteered to help out at Whanganui Hospital’s CBAC.”


Those dental staff are part of Whanganui District Health Board’s allied health team and they put their hands up to join the fight against COVID-19 during the March lockdown when their up-close-and-personal work was too risky, and all but urgent jobs were stopped.


Rather than twiddle their thumbs at home, they headed for the COVID-19 testing centre at the hospital to help out the stretched public health nurses.


“They selflessly gave up their time to join our multi-disciplinary team and fitted in brilliantly – an awesome bunch,” says CBAC Lead Nurse Helen Connole.


They were, of course, used to donning PPE and monitoring infection control from their dental work, but taking swabs was something new.


“Once you’d done your first swab, you felt comfortable and got into it,” said Janet Mallett, one of the volunteers.


“I really enjoyed it,” said dental therapist Page Bill who added that the team had formed their own Facebook Messenger group to support one another in the new environment.


Michelle Polkinghorne was impressed with the training and supervision they received. “Working with public health nurses was very rewarding – we got a good education.”


“You felt like you were doing your bit in the crisis,” added Greer Dix.


And, indeed, they were doing their bit.


Dr Chadwick comments: “Now more than ever, the importance of working together has been reinforced as our response to COVID-19 continues.


“There are a diverse range of professionals working in allied health right across New Zealand -- in fact, there are at least 43 professions, making up roughly a third of our health and disability workforce.


“Allied health is a big sector, with significant potential and we want to continue highlighting as much of the good work as often as possible in the years to come.”