Award recognises public health champion

  • 2018 WA Health Excellence Awards recognise wide-ranging achievement across the sector
  • Former WA Chief Health Officer, Professor Tarun Weeramanthri, wins prestigious Minister for Health award
  • Mental Health Co-Response Team and Hep C treatment for prison inmates also win awards

Professor Tarun Weeramanthri has won the 2018 Minister for Health’s Award for Outstanding Commitment to a Healthier Western Australia.

The prestigious award, presented at the annual WA Health Excellence Awards, recognises a significant and sustained contribution to the Western Australian health system over the course of a person’s career.

Professor Weeramanthri spent a decade as WA’s Chief Health Officer, before standing down this year.

He was instrumental in addressing water contamination issues to ensure the safe opening of the Perth Children’s Hospital, and was the driving force behind many achievements in public health including the passing of the Public Health Act 2016.

Under his leadership, the WA Department of Health strengthened its focus on chronic disease such as smoking and obesity, and implemented innovative projects including Geographic Information Systems, genetic screening, and rare disease research and policy.

On a national level, Professor Weeramanthri contributed to disaster and health responses including the influenza pandemic, Ashmore Reef disaster, Mumbai bombings, Pakistan floods, and major earthquakes in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

He also worked with the World Health Organisation in Sierra Leone and Iraq, co-ordinating the activities of foreign medical teams after the 2014 Ebola outbreak, and trauma services around the Mosul offensive.

Also honoured at the 2018 WA Health Excellence Awards was the Improving access to hepatitis C treatment in WA prisons program, which took out the Director General’s Award for best category winner.

This partnership, led by the Department of Health and including all area health services, the Department of Justice and Hepatitis WA, improved access to hepatitis C curative treatments for prisoners.

The rate of hepatitis C in WA prisons has since reduced from nearly 17 per cent in 2016 to 12 per cent in 2018 – with some prisons, such as the West Kimberley Regional Prison, now hepatitis C free.

Another cross-agency partnership project, the Mental Health Co-Response Team, won the inaugural Mental Health Commissioner’s Award.

The project – involving WA Health, the Mental Health Commission and the WA Police Force – embeds mental health clinicians at the Police Operations Centre and mobile police teams to divert people with mental health distress away from the criminal justice system, so they can receive more appropriate care.

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