March 8, 2023

Northern Health Foundation marks International Women’s Day 2023

This morning, 145 Northern Health staff, Board members and guests gathered at Mantra Epping to celebrate International Women’s Day 2023.

Attendees were welcomed by Northern Health Executive Director, Pina Di Donato, who highlighted the importance of the event as an opportunity to discuss equal access to healthcare for our local community.

“Northern Health is always working towards fixing the gaps in the care provided to women in our region; equality isn’t a ‘nice to have’ – it’s a ‘must have’,” she said.

Among those in attendance was the Hon. Mary-Anne Thomas, Minister for Health, who spoke about the diverse and growing community in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, as well as acknowledging the challenges the pandemic has had on Northern Health over the past few years.

“I firmly believe that it’s my job to work with senior healthcare leaders to ensure we deliver equitable care to every woman. I want to ensure that our nurses, allied health staff and clinicians all have the opportunity to grow their careers so this can happen. We dedicate a lot of money and effort training our highly qualified nurses, and then about seven years in, or after they have children, they fall off a cliff. We need to look at this workforce and see what is making it so difficult for them to continue to utilise this expertise,” she said.

Ms Thomas also reiterated the importance of access to high-quality healthcare for women and the Victorian state government’s commitment to creating 20 new women’s health clinics that will provide comprehensive care for Victorians needing treatment and advice on issues like endometriosis, pelvic pain and menopause.

“We’ve come a long way in women’s health, but there is more to do – that’s why we will deliver new women’s health clinics, more sexual and reproductive health hubs and double the number of endometriosis surgeries,” she said.

Northern Health’s Operations Director, Outpatients, Kathryn Bartho, shared her touching cancer survival story with guests, recounting her diagnosis in January 2020 at age 32 and the journey of receiving treatment at her own workplace.

“I was lying in bed and felt a lump in my breast, so as a nurse I knew I had to get it checked out. My GP sent me for an ultrasound and during the ultrasound I kept asking “why are you clicking?” and “are you measuring something?”…I just knew she was clicking too much,” she said.

“I felt lost, confused and numb after my diagnosis. Within five weeks of finding that lump, I received my first chemotherapy session with my husband by my side, however due to COVID restrictions, he was one of the few people able to be with me throughout. The rest of my support team was made up of the amazing oncology doctors and nurses, holding my hand and being with me the whole time.”

Ms Bartho spoke glowingly of the care she received at Northern Health, telling how she was able to receive chemotherapy in the comfort of her own home and was able to work from home throughout her treatment.

“The journey was a rollercoaster. Seven weeks into my treatment, I succumbed to my hair loss and shaved my head, as did my husband in solidarity with me. I think it’s important to acknowledge that, in a global comparison, my cancer experience is unique, and that not all women have what I have. I’ve been very lucky to be surrounded by strong women all my life and encouraged to achieve, grow and learn at every opportunity,” she said.

“International Women’s Day is about celebrating women across the globe and the main message I want people to walk away with today is surround yourself with people that allow you to be you, that want to share in your success and celebrate your achievements. As women, standing together united we can achieve greatness.”

Pictured: Attendees at the Northern Health Foundation International Women’s Day event.