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