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"It's been an incredible journey"

Saturday 10 October 2020

"It's been an incredible journey"


Guernsey's Director of Public Health, Dr Nicola Brink, is being awarded an MBE for her service to the Bailiwick throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

She is being recognised for her skills in guiding the islands through crisis and taking on delegated emergency powers, which gave her more responsibility for managing the virus response than any other person in the Bailiwick.

"When I got the call from Government House, I was actually quite overwhelmed," she said. "I had to take a breath before I could respond. It was an incredible moment and it's one I'll remember - I'll remember where I was standing when I got the telephone call.

"It's such a huge honour and privilege and it's really a reflection of what the community has done." 

Dr Brink was appointed Director of Public Health in 2018 and carried out an island-wide pandemic training exercise the following year which, with hindsight, turned out to be very well timed.

flu pandemic

Pictured: Dr Brink held a pandemic training exercise in November last year.

Covid-19 hit Guernsey in March 2020 and Dr Brink quickly had to design a local risk-based lockdown strategy to mitigate the risks and ensure the Bailiwick's limited healthcare system wouldn't become overwhelmed. As a result of her planning and guidance, the virus was eliminated in Guernsey ahead of any other member of the British Isles.

"The Bailiwick of Guernsey has got us to where we are, but also the amazing Public Health team, the States of Guernsey team and I think there are a lot of people that we perhaps don't hear so much about," Dr Brink added. "My immediate line manager, Mark de Garis, is one of the unsung heroes. He has given me an incredible amount of support. He's been there 24/7.

"We have worked together across departments, the Public Health team have helped each other across different sectors of the team and the community has supported us.

"We've had bad times, for example the day we had our first death - I will remember that day for the rest of my life. And then we've had the good times when we started coming out of lockdown and we saw the virus coming under control. It's been an incredible journey."

Dr Brink has been praised for how quickly and effectively she worked during that time, despite having to survive on very little sleep.

"During the height of the first wave I would get in at around 06:00 and I would leave at 22:00 or 23:00," she explained.

gavin_st_pier_heidi_soulsby_nicola_brink.png

Pictured: Dr Brink appeared on a panel at regular media briefings with Deputies Soulsby and St Pier. 

"A lot of my team have young children and they were working long hours as well. The team came together and just said ‘we’re trained to do this, we know what to do, we’ve just got to get on and do it’. Everyone was going the extra mile."

Throughout the height of the first wave, Dr Brink hosted two live-streamed media briefings each week along with Deputies Gavin St Pier and Heidi Soulsby, which were watched by thousands of local residents. She has been recognised for her ability to make complex science accessible to people of all ages, backgrounds and experiences during the briefings, in a calm and reassuring way.

Her efforts were picked up by medical and media professionals outside of Guernsey who praised Dr Brink, her team and the Bailiwick as a whole for managing to safely return to 'normal' life within the islands.

The Director of Public Health has been named in the Covid-19 section of Her Majesty The Queen's Birthday Honours List, although she has also been recognised for her work to significantly reduce the number of teenage pregnancies locally in recent years.

"We introduced that programme about three years ago and we achieved our five year goal in six months, so it was a huge success and it continues to be a huge success," said Dr Brink.

"Another programme we're looking at is the elimination of cervical cancer as a Public Health problem. To underpin that effort we brought in our free cervical screening and we've also brought in our gender neutral HPV vaccine programme.

"Other programmes include our programme to eliminate hepatitis C and that is enormously successful. We’ve treated over 100 people and cured them and we’ve got a handful of people left to treat."

Dr Brink is planning to mark the occasion at Government House today with some of her close family and friends, before heading out for a celebratory meal.

Pictured top: Director of Public Health, Dr Nicola Brink.

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