The Mackay community owes a debt of gratitude to Dr Chandika Wasalthilaka.
Almost two years ago, when other doctors were suspended and a review into the Mackay Base Hospital’s Obstetrics and Gynaecology (O&G) services was announced, the burden of responsibility to keep the service going fell on his shoulders.
“I can still remember the day. It was the 11th of October 2021,” Dr Chandika said.
“I was called in and told ‘you will be the only consultant today’.
“I went downstairs to the labour ward and spoke to the junior doctors and told them ‘this is the situation’.
“We are not going to close the unit; we will work.”
Dr Chandika is originally from Sri Lanka and spent five years working in Victoria before moving to Mackay in 2020, attracted by the warmth of Queensland and a change to a smaller regional hospital.
He had about six months to settle in, before times got tough.
He has been asked many times how he coped through that difficult period, and why he stayed.
“It seems this was the hardest time in my life, both physically and mentally,” Dr Chandika said.
“We’re all over the news, so even to come to work is so difficult.
“My wife was very supportive during that time; she took care of the home front and the children, so I could focus on work.
“I am accustomed to hardships like a limited workforce, because where I’m from in Sri Lanka it’s always understaffed, and it’s the same in very busy hospitals in Australia too.
“I know how to work under stress.
“I have a very high capacity and resilience, and I think that my training basically helped me get through it.
“I would also thank all of the staff members in the Women’s Health Unit, especially Dr Sujatha Aanad, who have worked above and beyond their capacity to sustain this service during the last 18 months.”
When Mackay Hospital and Health Service (HHS) held its annual staff awards ceremony last month, Dr Chandika received six different nominations for the Clinical Excellence Award.
Here are just some of the explanations given to support his nomination.
- ‘Chandika was a lifeline during the difficult time’
- ‘He is a great listener and women feel heard and understood.’
- ‘He has worked tirelessly over the last few years to serve our women’s health unit’
- ‘Despite all the struggles and public scrutiny this department has been through, he remains a calm and reliable presence.’
- ‘a thoughtful and compassionate doctor always going above and beyond’
- ‘Dr Chandika has the respect of all who work with him’
- ‘He is a bedrock in this department, an amazing mentor’
“Childbirth is the best time of a woman’s life and a big experience,” he said.
“And we are confident to serve you, to give you the best experience you can have.
“So keep faith with us.”
Thank you, Dr Chandika, for your dedication, commitment and compassion, and congratulations on receiving our Clinical Excellence Award.