CQ Health’s quiet detectives saving lives
1 May 2020
CQ Health has a team of super sleuths working quietly in the background to keep our community safe.
Led by Dr Gulam Khandaker, CQ Health’s Public Health Unit has been working tirelessly for more than 10 weeks so far to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Central Queensland.
With no local transmission recorded, and now zero active cases remaining in the area, there is time for a quiet pat on the back, but the team remains vigilant and is not celebrating early.
The Public Health Unit is responsible for contact tracing*, which means before a case is even confirmed they jump onto the phones and make hundreds of calls.
Early in the response, the CQ Public Heath Unit had 10 trained contact tracing professionals which subsequently grew to more than 30. A special call centre arrangement was created, ensuring these super sleuths got the equipment and support they needed to do their job.
Dr Khandaker draws on years of experience as a medical doctor (working in public health, infectious diseases and paediatrics), researcher and academic to provide his expert advice. In fact, he completed his PhD at University of Sydney on the epidemiology of pandemic influenza.
The Central Queensland Public Health Unit is small, but effective, with a wealth of experience. They cover both Central Queensland and the Central West, with a population of about 225,000 and a vast geographical area.
Dr Khandaker is humble when it comes to his own achievements but is effusive in praise for his team.
“We have one of the most experienced environmental health officers in the state in Paul Florian, and very experienced public health nurses including Jacina Walker, Amanda Wyatt and Candise Bradshaw as well as Dr Nick Smoll who is a medical doctor and a health informatics expert,” he said.
“We have been showing teamwork on several fronts, from public health planning to supporting local clinicians and the local community by providing the most up-to-date public health information and guidelines, as well as contact tracing.
“These are surreal times, but when you have a good team and they show real passion for their work it is very rewarding.
“Our team has worked long hours every day without a break and remain on call for week after week.
“But at the end of the day this is our community and we want to keep it safe for our families, our friends, our neighbours.”
None is prouder of their efforts than CQ Health Chief Executive Steve Williamson, who has watched in awe as these dedicated doctors, nurses and environmental health officers have sprung into action.
“Nothing seems to faze Gulam and his team,” Mr Williamson said. “We watched their careful and precise work in action last year when they responded to our first local dengue outbreak, and time and time again they show their professionalism and dedication to the health and safety of our community.
“This is why the Public Health Unit was chosen as the very well-deserved Team of the Year at our 2019 CQ Health staff awards.
“Central Queensland has a lot to thank this team for, as they work long, hard and quietly in the background to do what needs to be done.”
While Dr Khandaker’s day job involves saving the Central Queensland community, on his time off he spends time supporting children with disabilities in developing countries.
*For more information on contact tracing, see: https://www.qld.gov.au/health/conditions/health-alerts/coronavirus-covid-19/take-action/contact-tracing
Some of the CQ Public Health Unit team (from left) Dr Nick Smoll, Connie Slater, Amanda Wyatt, Dr Gulam Khandaker, Jacina Walker, Diane Krenske, Dr Chi Chimbare, Andrea Robinson, Michelle Nyendwa, Margie Bauman, Kalie Green, Odwumi Adegbija, Paul Florian, Jemmah Newell, Melanie Holgate, Dr Arif Khan, Jane Manderson and Peter McKee.