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Meet Di Thornton, 2020 recipient of the Excellence in Remote and Isolated Health Practice Award

6 Dec 2020

Di Thornton gains recognition this year because of her exceptional response to the COVID-19 pandemic while serving small-town communities either side of the Victoria/South Australia border.

Nurse Prac­ti­tion­er Di Thorn­ton, who pro­vides health ser­vices to sev­er­al small-town com­mu­ni­ties on either side of the Victoria/​South Aus­tralia bor­der, has been award­ed the CRANAplus Excel­lence in Remote and Iso­lat­ed Health Prac­tice Award.

Di, who works for the Mallee Bor­der Health Cen­tre, is recog­nised for her inno­v­a­tive approach to the deliv­ery of health care dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, trav­el­ling to dif­fer­ent loca­tions with her team each day as part of her practice.

The clo­sure of the Victoria/​South Aus­tralia bor­der meant that the res­i­dents of part of remote South Aus­tralia, includ­ing Pin­na­roo, were unable to access health ser­vices, with only one part-time GP remain­ing in the area. 

Di was shocked when advised that the res­i­dents of this region would no longer have rea­son­able or time­ly access to health ser­vices. She demon­strat­ed her lev­el of com­mit­ment to rur­al health by rapid­ly plan­ning and reor­gan­is­ing her prac­tice and staff to ensure ade­quate and essen­tial ser­vices remained either side of the bor­der. In time, the South Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment imple­ment­ed a bor­der bub­ble’ which enabled Di to again pro­vide full ser­vices to her entire community. 

She advo­cat­ed for sev­er­al Vic­to­ri­an patients in rela­tion to the bor­der issue, includ­ing one child requir­ing urgent can­cer surgery, with the sup­port of her local MP Dr Anne Web­ster. Togeth­er with the Aus­tralian Col­lege of Nurse Prac­ti­tion­ers, Di and her team also lob­bied for a change to the bor­der clo­sure to allow for health care. Many peo­ple liv­ing in the region access ter­tiary health­care in Ade­laide, as it is clos­er than Mel­bourne, and they were sud­den­ly cut off from their usu­al spe­cial­ists and services.

The CRANAplus Excel­lence in Remote and Iso­lat­ed Health Prac­tice Award is spon­sored by James Cook Uni­ver­si­ty, Cen­tre for Rur­al and Remote Health.