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Brendan Murphy honoured following pandemic response


Morgan Liotta


4/11/2020 3:25:27 PM

The former Chief Medical Officer has been named ACT Australian of the Year, placing him alongside the seven nominees for Australian of the Year.

Professor Brendan Murphy
Professor Murphy has been recognised as instrumental in flattening the coronavirus curve in Australia during his tenure as CMO. (Image: AAP)

During the final of his four years as Federal Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Professor Brendan Murphy stepped into the spotlight to steer Australia through the COVID-19 pandemic – a turn for which he has been commended.
 
‘Professor Murphy has been faced with some extraordinarily challenging decisions in his role as CMO, and he has performed admirably in limiting the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic while being mindful of the impact government restrictions were having on people’s livelihoods and wellbeing,’ RACGP Immediate Past President, the late Dr Harry Nespolon, told newsGP in late June when Professor Murphy prepared to move to his new role of Secretary of the Department of Health.

As part of his leadership role in Australia’s pandemic response, Professor Murphy chaired the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, which produced the nation’s COVID-19 public health guidelines.
 
Based on various modelling, including measures to support GPs and aged care services, preventing hospital overcrowding and administering the national medical stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE), the guidelines provided advice on closing down business and community activities, and implementing physical-distancing measures.
 
Professor Murphy also made the early decision to close the country’s borders to China.
 
All of these efforts have been widely recognised as a significant aspect of helping to contain spread of the virus in Australia.
 
Writing in newsGP in March, Professor Murphy discussed the implementation of early response measures to protect healthcare workers from risk of infection through PPE supplies.
 
‘We recognise the need to supply GPs [with PPE] who are assessing potential COVID-19 patients and are focusing our efforts there,’ he wrote.
 
A focus on protecting vulnerable populations was also an early part of Professor Murphy’s role of steering the public health response.
 
‘We are very aware that additional work is needed in the residential aged care sector and for vulnerable groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. These have been the subject of separate planning workshops and will have their own strategies, which will be shared with you, acknowledging the roles of GPs in these areas,’ he wrote.
 
Professor Murphy also advocated for updated healthcare approaches such as respiratory clinics and the expansion of telehealth, with the Government deploying 143 GP-led respiratory clinics across Australia as part of its pandemic response, to offer specific care to patients with mild-to-moderate respiratory symptoms.
 
Later in March, Professor Murphy put the callout to GPs for their assistance in ‘strictly applying’ the Communicable Diseases Network Australia’s National Guidelines in deciding whether to refer a patient for a COVID-19 pathology test, outlining epidemiological and clinical criteria.
 
‘Pathology collection centres have … experienced large backlogs in testing appointments in some parts of Australia, and emergency testing facilities have had to be established in some areas to ensure that urgent patients can get access to testing,’ he wrote.
 
Updates to PPE supplies, telehealth items and ramping up of COVID testing were included in Professor Murphy’s subsequent communications, as part of robust efforts to supporting frontline healthcare workers – and the wider community.
 
These efforts have not gone unrecognised.

‘Thanks to his calm leadership, Australia was able to prevent the COVID-19 virus taking hold in the community during the first wave of the global pandemic,’ Australian of the Year award organisers said.
 
Professor Murphy said on his departure as CMO that his accomplishments during Australia’s pandemic response are a ‘collective achievement’.
 
‘Every member of the federation of Australia has responded well. One of the great legacies of this outbreak is how our federation has worked well,’ he said.
 
‘At the health level, we have consensus, cooperative, assisting each other, and we have taken the best expert advice and given it fearlessly to our first ministers, who have taken that advice on every occasion.
 
‘That makes me very proud.’
 
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Australian of the Year Chief Medical Officer COVID-19



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