August 25, 2022

Northern Health Reception: Going above and beyond

Being a Receptionist and Switchboard Operator necessitates a very consumer-centric focus, while at the same time, demands a vast amount of knowledge of Northern Health and its ever changing operations.

There are over 40 Reception and Switchboard Operators who work across Northern Hospital Epping, Broadmeadows Hospital and Bundoora Centre. The role is chiefly responsible for greeting and assisting patients, staff and the general public, answering and directing phone calls from internal and external stakeholders, and prioritising and responding to the 2222 Emergency Code phone.

Outside of these duties, the team control the paging system across the health service, maintain and process the mail rooms, manage the phone directory with over 6,500 phone extensions and distribute and reconcile CabCharge vouchers.

To ensure a Switchboard Operator has up to date information and is able to assist with any query, they utilise a minimum of nine systems at any one time.

Two years ago, the Reception and Switchboard Department at Northern Hospital Epping was averaging 30,000 calls per month. During the 2021-22 financial year, they averaged 45,000 calls per month, a 50 per cent increase in only two years.

An average waiting time of 42 seconds was achieved for callers to speak to a Switchboard Operator. This was a huge achievement, despite the steep increase in call volume. Broadmeadows Hospital and Bundoora Centre Switchboard also averaged 5,000 and 3,500 calls per month respectively.

The surge in activity was attributed to the increase in patient beds and the high number of COVID-19 testing and vaccination enquiries, as well as the introduction of visiting restrictions.

A ‘Ward Contact Numbers’ list was developed and published on the Northern Health Intranet to help reduce internal calls, where possible. It is available here.

The team also help to ensure the safety and welfare of our patients, staff and visitors by receiving calls through the 2222 Emergency Code Phone. Over the last year, they received and actioned a total of 23,700 emergency codes that were called through 2222, with the Northern Hospital Switchboard responding to more than 19,000 of those. Each code requires the Switchboard Operator to follow one of 15 individual procedures, depending on the type of code.

Nick Caruana, Hospital Reception Manager, says, “I would like to recognise and sincerely thank the Reception and Switchboard Operators for their hard work and dedication, especially over the last year. They go above and beyond to assist the public and staff of Northern Health, and display great patience and kindness, even in the face of extraordinary call volumes. I have been so fortunate to have the opportunity to meet and work with such a charismatic and dedicated team of individuals over the last year, and I’m looking forward to what the future brings for this department.”