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Current News

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Austin Health supporter newsletter - Vitality

Click here to download Vitality Autumn 2020

Our latest Autumn 2020 Vitality magazine includes updates about our paediatrics Christmas appeal, a story on one of our very clever nurses, a new museum and  much more...

Nurses lead the way, thanks to you

Because of your incredible donations to support nurses in 2018, the Austin Health Nursing Alumni Scholarship was established.

One of the inaugural scholarship recipients is Robyn Purcell, quarter century Austin Health nurse who’s been a simulation educator for the past six years.

“I help prepare nurses for the uncommon emergencies … Austin Health already has some of the best of the best. I’m here to ensure we further refine collaboration and communication and are kept up to date on the latest advances in patient care and research,” said Robyn.

As an example, Robyn and her team will use volunteers acting as patients to simulate situations such as a stroke on the nurses’ actual ward to best prepare them for these real-life situations

After the simulation exercise teams debrief on what they learned, what they did well and what they could improve on. The volunteers acting as patients also give feedback on how their communication made them feel and what they understood.   

Through simulation education, staff perfect team communication, critical response times and patient care, which translates into better health outcomes, should things like an uncommon emergency ever actually occur.

Thanks to your support, Robyn will attend the highly competitive, world leading simulation educator program at Harvard University this June.  She will then be able to bring what she learns back to Austin Health, to benefit all nurses and patients.

“This scholarship means I’ll be able to develop our simulation education program under the guidance of the world’s best at Harvard. I’ll be able to train additional professionals to lead as simulation educators with limitless benefits for patients in our care.”

Find out more about the Austin Health Nursing Alumni 


Look what you made possible!

Last Christmas we asked for your help to make time in hospital more joyful for children.

Paediatric Nurse Unit Manager Jenny Spiller explained how an MRI entertainment system would reduce stress on children and bring more accurate test results.

Thanks to an outpouring of support, the MRI entertainment system has been ordered and we're excitedly awaiting its arrival!

In addition, so many of you showed your generosity that professional clowns, called Clown Doctors, will visit our paediatric patients throughout the year starting in March!

"I'm blown away by how many donations we received from the wonderful community. This means kids will watch their favourite movies during an MRI and Clown Doctors will visit our little patients. Thank you." - Jenny

Learn more about how donations from the community are making a difference...


Staff, patients and families show passion and commitment at Run Melbourne

Team Royal Talbot - one of the many amazing teams who raised funds at Run Melbourne
A record number of Austin Health runners became heroes for their hospital on Sunday, participating in Run Melbourne and raising over $60,000. 

Run Melbourne is one of the biggest charity events on the calendar attracting more than 20,000 runners taking on 5km, 10km or the half marathon (21km). Austin Health had a record 200 staff, patients and families running and fundraising for their hospital, double the 100 runners we had last year.

Many runners made the most of the opportunity to raise funds for their own ward or department. We are very grateful for the effort put in by all of our runners and their commitment to making a difference and raising money for their hospital.

Support for runners on the day included an Austin Health marquee in the race village, giving them a community hub to chat with others, store their bags, snack on fruit provided and have their photos taken with their medals! 

To our runners: you have all gone above and beyond because you care. We thank you for leading the way in the Austin Health community and demonstrating how passionate you are about the patients, families and staff you work with every day.

For those who might have missed out on Run Melbourne 2019, next year’s event is only 364 days away, and it’s never too early to start training!  We hope you can join us next year and help us grow our Run Melbourne community by embracing the opportunity to raise funds for a ward or department of your choice.

Your help will mean less stress for children

Austin Health has a busy 16-bed paediatric ward, providing treatment and specialised care to infants, children and adolescents.  Often arriving at hospital through the emergency department, these young patients receive expert care from a team of experienced, dedicated and supportive staff.  But young patients sometimes present unique challenges.

As adults, a visit to hospital as a patient can be unsettling, but with the benefit of maturity, we are able to understand why we are there and what treatments we may need.  For children, particularly young children, being a patient in hospital can be frightening and difficult to understand.

“We do everything possible to help our young patients feel safe and secure when they are on the ward,” says Justine Carder, Divisional Manager Paediatrics.  “Parents are encouraged to stay with their child to help minimise emotional stress, we have a lovely play room filled with games, toys and books, and we have a dedicated treatment room for difficult or painful procedures so that we protect a child’s bed area as a space for them to feel safe and to rest.”

Many children need various tests to help doctors make a diagnosis.  These tests can be stressful and traumatic for children and some tests – like Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – need younger children to be sedated or anaesthetised so they don’t move around.  

“If we possibly can, we try to avoid sedation,” says Justine. “We are hoping to purchase a special pair of goggles which a child can wear during an MRI. They will be able to watch TV or a movie during their scan, reducing the need for anaesthetic and therefore stress on the child.”

With hundreds of children having MRIs at Austin Health each year, these goggles will significantly reduce stress on children (and parents!) and the need for sedation. The goggles will also help to speed up each procedure so that more patients can be seen each day.

We need your support to help the paediatric ward purchase these special goggles. Keep an eye on your letterbox next month to find out how you can help.

Your beautiful new gift shop awaits!

Head of Partnerships, megan Johnson and volunteer Vyvette are excited about sharing the new shop with you
Helped by the generosity of an anonymous donor, our volunteer-run gift shop at Austin Hospital has undergone a major transformation with a beautiful new retail space now open.

Staffed by Friends of Austin Health volunteers, the gift shop has always been an important source of fundraising income for Austin Health. 

“Every purchase made here is a donation to the hospital,” says Megan Johnson, Head of Partnerships, Fundraising. “Funds raised will help Austin Health continue to provide world-leading healthcare to our community. 

“Plans for this space have been in the pipeline for many years and we are so excited to have finally created a space for staff, patients and families to enjoy.  There is a fabulous range of new products including homewares, jewellery, children’s gifts, and so much more.”

The shop is located on Level 3 of the Harold Stokes Building (between the coffee shop and Austin Health Pathology) and is open from 9am–3pm, Monday–Friday.  

We are looking for more volunteers to staff the gift shop, particularly on Friday but any other day is helpful too. Please visit or phone the Volunteers Office on 03 9496 9602

A record year for liver transplants, thanks to you

More than 100 patients underwent life-saving liver transplants at Austin Health last year, made possible in part through your generous support for the Liver Unit over many years.

This is the first time 100 transplants have been performed in a single year in the Liver Transplant unit's 30-year history. The unit's Director, Professor Bob Jones, has been an integral part of the service since it first opened in 1988.

"We started out performing something like 15-20 transplants per year, and we thought that was a lot," he says. "So to get to the point where we‘ve done more than 100 transplants in a single year is an extraordinary change."

More than 700 liver transplants have been performed by the unit since the service began, including approximately 100 paediatric liver transplants, with world-class survival rates achieved.

Mother of two, Leah Hobbs, is one of the patients who received a transplant last year. She's forever grateful for the liver that saved her life.

Leah had liver failure, triggered by a rare genetic condition. A liver transplant was the only option left. Her mother had the same condition and was saved by a liver transplant 13 years earlier.

"I actually thought I was going to die," says Leah.

Leah was in hospital, gravely ill with liver failure, but was lucky to receive a new liver just in time. She's one of the incredible stories of survival due to the care of our Liver Transplant unit.

The number of transplants performed is unfortunately limited by the availability of organ donors, and currently the demand for donor livers outweighs supply. Leah sees herself as one of the lucky ones.

"What can you say really?" she says. "I have a life, and that's why it's pretty emotional. The donor and their family have lost a life. Thank you just doesn't seem to cut it."

Your support over many years of the Liver Transplant Unit at Austin Health has helped purchase equipment to improve patient care, helping us become a world leader in liver transplantation and saving thousands of lives. Thank you.

Find out more about our Liver Transplant unit

Register as an organ donor


World-leading research at Austin Health Intensive Care Unit (ICU)

Arguably producing the most amount of ICU research in the world, the Intensive Care Unit at Austin Health has a culture of ongoing learning and always striving for the very best outcome for patients.

“There are more than 100 publications that come out of Austin Health ICU each year,” says Dr Glenn Eastwood, Research Manager ICU.  “That is second to none for any other unit in the world.”

With internationally-awarded Prof. Rinaldo Bellomo at the helm as Research Director ICU, the world’s most highly published intensive care specialist of all time, it’s hardly surprising.  

Attracted to this vibrant research culture, Glenn arrived at Austin Health 10 years ago, managing not only his own PhD research but the many projects and trials already being undertaken by the talented and committed team in this busy intensive care unit.

“What I love about ICU is the teamwork and communication,” says Glenn.  “I feel most comfortable in the critical care environment and seeing the immediate impact of the team’s care is a rewarding experience.”

With various research projects happening at any one time (currently 11 projects) many ICU patients are given the opportunity to participate in a study, making a real difference to their care and often to their recovery. Sometimes these study findings change the way intensive care units around the world manage a particular aspect of care.

“We are reflective and critical of our own practice and not willing just to stay stagnant,” says Glenn.  “We’re always looking for improvements in care and studies remind us that there are multiple aspects of care that we can improve.”

Many patients in ICU are sedated, to help them receive treatment and recover, but this pre-disposes them to having cognitive dysfunction in the future – that is, difficulties in their ability to talk, walk, socialise and be pain-free. 

“We want to understand how to better sedate people to minimise the chances of cognitive dysfunction when they awake and go home,” says Glenn. “We can do this by using an electroencephalogram (EEG). This looks at the electrical brain waves and helps us to gauge the depth of sedation.”

“This type of monitoring is becoming available for use at the bedside and we hope to find funding to purchase one of these specialised machines so our doctors can make clinical decisions based on evidence.  In doing so, we would become a leader in Australia in this aspect of sedation management. A perfect example of how research supports practice.”

“Research has the greatest impact to influence intensive care practice locally, nationally and internationally because we build collaborations with other researchers and our work is published and read around the world. It’s a vital carry-over from doing great patient care that leads to improvements and changes in practice around the world.”

Your support has helped ICU clinicians and researchers at Austin Health conduct prolific research studies, making new discoveries which help improve patient care both here and around the world.  Thank you.

Find out more about the Intensive Care Unit at Austin Health


Just do it

For one so young, Phoebe Tagros is refreshing in the way she embraces the spirit of giving.  The 31-year-old Austin Health nurse is taking part in this year’s Run Melbourne on July 29 and  raising money to help the ward she works in.

For Phoebe, it’s an obvious choice.  Ward 12, at Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, cares for patients needing neurological rehabilitation.  Phoebe is part of a closely-knit team of doctors, nurses, allied health specialists and psychologists who help patients, many of whom have had a stroke, improve their independence and quality of life so they can return to their community.

“There is so much teamwork between us and in my own little way I just want to help my team and my ward. Run Melbourne is an opportunity for me to help my workplace.”

Patients in Ward 12 often stay for several months and staff form strong bonds as they work with their patients to gradually re-gain their independence.

“Many patients have gone from living a normal life to having a stroke and becoming completely dependent on us for their daily care,” says Phoebe. “One thing I love about working on this ward is that I get to share in their progress and know that I’ve helped to make a difference. It’s a really nice feeling.”

Even as we chat, Phoebe’s quiet and caring nature is apparent. It is clear she takes her work very seriously and cares about her patients.

“I feel like some patients become like family, I love to come to work and I look forward to seeing them.”

Since taking up running five years ago as part of a health kick, Phoebe is hooked.

“I love running, I’ve been running for five years, it’s therapeutic for me, especially when I’m stressed, I just want to run!  I did Run Melbourne last year and It was really fun, there were lots of people of different ages, there was a woman in her 60’s who became my inspiration on the day!”

Phoebe is running the 10km on July 29 and is so thankful for the opportunity to help her ward continue to provide exceptional care to patients.

“If you’re able to help, why not just do it?” – Phoebe Tagros

Support Phoebe and Ward 12 by making a donation here

You can enter Run Melbourne and fundraise for your department or area!  Run as an individual or create your own team with colleagues, family and friends. 
Learn more

Volunteering makes a big impact

Lily (left) and Mavis (right)

We are so lucky at Austin Health to have an amazing community of volunteers who every day give their time and energy to help in many ways. The effort of you, our supporters, makes Austin Health a special place.

At 93, Mavis is one of our oldest volunteers, and one of our longest serving!

In the recent Volunteer Service Awards, she received her 35 years of service certificate from Austin Health, together with Lily, who was awarded her 25 years of service.  Over the combined 60 years they have volunteered at the Heidelberg Op Shop, Mavis and Lily have helped to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for equipment at our hospitals. 

Thank you to Mavis, Lily and all the other hard-working volunteers who received awards.

If you'd like to be part of the volunteering community at Austin Health, click on the link below for more information.

Creative therapies a lifeline for spinal patients

'Mountains and Snow': “I love this drawing because it’s something I didn’t think I could actually do. I now realise that Art Therapy is not just about art, it’s about the therapy too. I’ve been able to talk about my experiences, thoughts and feelings as I’ve been creating my drawings.” Steven Ribarich

Relying solely on donations from you, the wonderful Austin Health community, the Creative Therapies program at Royal Talbot forms an incredibly valuable experience for many people with spinal injuries.

Art, music and gardening sessions are not usually a part of hospital treatment. But at Austin Health’s Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre (Royal Talbot) creative therapies are giving patients with spinal injuries a way to express their feelings and experiences, some of which may have been repressed due to trauma.

Steven Ribarich, husband and father of three children, recently became quadriplegic after a surfing accident.  After being airlifted to the Alfred Hospital, Steven underwent surgery before being transferred to Ward 3 North at Austin Hospital where he stayed for one month. Once stabilised, he moved to Royal Talbot for eight months of intensive rehabilitation where he had to learn many new skills, and re-learn many old ones too.

The trauma associated with an event resulting in paraplegia or quadriplegia is significant and life-changing. Everyday life becomes more about learning simple skills again like rolling over, sitting up, getting dressed – things that many of us take for granted.  Creative therapies offer a temporary escape from the reality of rehabilitation as well as assisting in processing and integrating trauma experiences.

“I participated in music, art, gardening and singing,” says Steven. “Creative therapies helped me psychologically as I was able to talk a lot while I was doing the task at hand.  I was able to talk and discuss issues about my injury.”

“It took my mind off the problem at hand and made me concentrate on other things,” says Steven. “It was something that I looked forward to doing as it was a bit of escapism.”

Research has shown that art therapy is able to access non-verbal parts of the brain that communicate in emotions, visual imagery and body sensations.  By tapping into primitive brain networks it can help establish new neural pathways.  Art therapy can help patients to express experiences they find hard to put into words (Lobban 2016)

Since returning home five months ago, Steven has remained heavily involved music while he works hard to continue his recovery and rehabilitation.

“Creative art therapy at Royal Talbot is extremely beneficial for the physical and emotional wellbeing of patients,” says Steven. “It creates a sense of worth and instills pride again.”


Everything old is new again

After operating for more than twenty years and contributing in excess of $1 million to help patients and families, the Diamond Creek Op Shop has undergone an expansion just in time to fill the fabulous new space with stock for Christmas!

If you haven’t made the trip to Diamond Creek to visit the Friends of Austin Health Opportunity Shop, now’s the time!   In addition to expanding into the neighbouring building to provide more space, it was decided to also renovate the original shop.  The result, after six months of building work, is a large, spacious shop with the capacity to stock larger items – like furniture and paintings.

With Christmas just around the corner, the shop is well-stocked for gift ideas at very reasonable prices.  With a team of helpful Friends of Austin volunteers who will welcome you with a warm smile, make sure you drop in for a visit and a spot of Christmas shopping!

The Diamond Creek Op Shop is open Mon – Sat from 9.30am until 4pm.  Closed Sundays.  42-44 Main Hurstbridge Road, Diamond Creek, VIC, 3089.  Telephone 03 9438 2426.

Dorothy gives a living legacy.

Dorothy Nowell
After many years of loyal support, Dorothy Nowell has generously made a living bequest to Austin Health.

A true local, Dorothy has lived in Ivanhoe for 43 years – all of her married life.  Her daughter attended local schools and Dorothy is an active member of the St James Church where she plays the organ regularly during services.  An engaging and lively lady who is an accomplished pianist, Dorothy and her husband Geoffrey have their support commemorated on a paver in the Austin courtyard at the main hospital entrance.

Dorothy laughs about the many times she has needed the Austin Hospital. “I am so thankful for my local hospital.  They have always been so caring and lovely to me during my many visits,” says Dorothy. “It’s wonderful to be able to do something to help others.  The Austin Hospital has helped me many times and I feel honoured that I can give something back.”

Dorothy’s bequest is a living bequest which means she donates the money now and is able to see the results of her support.   Her donation is contributing to a significant medical research project that will give access to cutting edge medical imaging technology for studying bones.  This will enable researchers to conduct high resolution bone analysis, leading to significantly advanced treatment of osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and bone cancer.

Give happy, live happy

Volunteers Beverley Briese OAM and Lois Whitten
For nearly 90 years volunteers have been an integral part of Austin Health. Through their hard work and dedication our auxiliaries have contributed millions of dollars to the purchase of vital equipment for the hospital.

Have you thought about donating your time?

We are currently looking for volunteers for The Austin Gift Shop for a minimum of four hours a week with a commitment of at least twelve months.  Volunteers are a highly valued presence throughout the hospital and they enhance the patient and visitor experience.

The Gift Shop is open Monday to Friday from 8.30am – 3.30pm and is located on Level 3, Harold Stokes Building (near the exit to Burgundy Street).  A wide selection of merchandise is sold at the Gift Shop including clothing, stationary, jewellery and homewares.

“10 years ago I had a Lymphoma removed with subsequent chemo and a blood transfusion – the hospital  saved my life! As a result, I volunteer to give back to the hospital.” Lois Whitten

For more information about volunteering in The Austin Gift Shop please contact:
Elaine Levine, Retail and Auxiliaries Coordinator
Tel: 03 9496 5753 or email

Changing lives - nerve transfer surgery for spinal cord injuries

Plastic Surgeon Natasha van Zyl and Dr Andrew Nunn (pic courtesy of Heidelberg Leader)
A specialist team at the Austin Hospital is changing lives of patients with quadriplegia following spinal cord injury by giving them back the use of their hands through world-leading nerve transfer surgery.

Most of us take for granted our ability to eat, hold a drink bottle, use an ATM card, turn a key in a lock, scratch our head – even hug our loved ones.  Unfortunately for people with quadriplegia, simple tasks such as these are not possible and a severe loss of independence is the result.  For some of these patients, nerve transfer surgery can offer hope of regaining use of their arms and hands.

In nerve transfer surgery, nerves that no longer function due to spinal cord injury (in this case, nerves that control the arm and hands) are re-routed to working nerves which then connect up with the paralysed muscle.  With intensive rehabilitation and occupational therapy, muscles are bought back to life and hand function is restored.   

The Victorian Spinal Cord Service team at the Austin Hospital was one of the first teams in the world to introduce the nerve transfer technology for spinal cord injuries.  They were also the first worldwide to do multiple nerve transfers simultaneously to reconstruct upper limb function in quadriplegics.  Since 2012 they have performed over 100 nerve transfers, and Austin Health is the only place in Australia where there is an established program of nerve transfer surgery for spinal cord injury.

“The benefits to patients are life-changing, and occasionally even life–saving, when patients have given up hope of leading a meaningful life without the use of their hands,” says Austin Health plastic surgeon Natasha van Zyl.  “They get back some of the independence they have lost and live a fuller life. Having improved hand function allows the person to do more as a parent, a partner and at work and this translates into a greater sense of self-worth and satisfaction with life.”

Nerve transfer surgery ideally should be done within 6-12 months of the initial spinal cord injury because after this time the de-generation of nerve endings and muscles affects outcomes.  The team treat patients from all over Australia.  They are hoping to increase national awareness of and access to the service so they can help more people with spinal cord injury.

For more information about the Victorian Spinal Cord Service or nerve transfer surgery please call 03 9496 5220.

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Acknowledgement flags

Austin Health acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging.
We celebrate, value and include people of all backgrounds, genders, sexualities, cultures, bodies and abilities.