Explore how we solved The New Equation in vaccination – transforming one of Sydney’s biggest arenas into a mass vaccination hub in just nine days, delivering over 330,000 vaccines in 11 weeks.
As the COVID-19 Delta variant spread across NSW, the team at Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD), joined forces with a range of organisations and trusted advisors, including PwC Australia, in the fight against the virus, coming together to solve this important problem as a community, in the name of immunity.
“Achieving the impossible,” was how CEO of WSLHD Graeme Loy put it. The 20,000-seat Qudos Bank Arena was transformed from Sydney’s home of entertainment to the hero hub of vaccination in just nine days. The hub has played host to over 330,000 people across Sydney, with communities banding together to make history, get the jab, and help the show go on.
Picking the right partner to work alongside the high-performing team, “PwC Australia was an obvious choice,” says Graeme. With shared values across innovation, design and community outcomes, “if you want the best, you have to work with the best.”
Nathan Schlesinger, Partner and National Health & Wellbeing Industry Leader here at PwC Australia, says the key to bringing the teams together was looking beyond roles, and rallying around a shared responsibility of immunising the community. “PwC brought skills from strategy, logistics, data analytics, call centre operations, procurement and beyond,” says Dr Emma McCahon, Executive Director of Medical Services at WSLHD, and full-time Executive Director of the Qudos Bank Arena NSW Health Vaccination Centre. But most importantly, the teams had people, “unafraid to down tools, throw on some high-vis, and get out on the floor.”
As the team were preparing to raise the curtain at Qudos, numbers in the community began rising too. With just nine days to go, to ensure the safety of citizens, minimal staff could be taken out of NSW Health to operate the centre. The teams instead managed to mobilise a 1600-strong workforce of their own, recruiting the typical number of staff required to run two hospitals, in under two weeks. “It was a logistics exercise of epic proportions,” Graeme says. In comparison to the two largest vaccination centres in the district, Blacktown and Westmead, capable of vaccinating up to 800 and 1500 people per day respectively, the capacity at Qudos would be a whopping 30,000 per day. “To make this happen, we needed phenomenal teams and trust in each other to do great work together,” Graeme says.
Solving in unexpected ways, the team managed to make a few calls and add a superstar line-up of solvers from across Qudos Bank Arena; Qantas, a major pharmaceutical company, NSW Health, the Australian Defence Force, as well as private hospitals and universities across the state.
Together, the teams used extensive user-experience design skills to design flows for multiple patient and staff journeys, transforming the entertainment arena into an effective and safe clinical environment. In this time, a full supply chain function was created from scratch, and all communications developed to support the program of work. The teams also stood up a call centre at the arena in just four days. Mobilising more than 80 operators, the call centre went onto field nearly 50,000 calls and make over 10,000 outbound calls.
Meeting the milestone of transforming Quodos Bank Arena in just nine days, a new standard for success was set. 330,000 vaccines arrived on time, alongside 690,000 masks, 820,000 wipes, 175,000 pairs of gloves, 700,000 needles, 330,000 syringes and 7000 litres of hand sanitiser (enough to fill 45 bathtubs!). At the same time, the vaccination hub created jobs for over 1000 people that, in many cases, had been without employment for over 18 months.
“The first week was certainly challenging,” Graeme says. A request for 24,000 year 12 students to not only receive vaccination, but require COVID-19 testing on day one, saw everyone band together from the start. “We couldn’t have got there without the strong and capable team we’ve had supporting us along the way.”
Delivering a different approach from a more typical clinical model, solving together, a major pharmaceutical company delivered the pharmacy model, while university partnerships made it possible for final-year healthcare and medical students to join clinical teams and administer vaccines, alongside doctors unable to perform elective surgeries at this time. “The backbone of our clinical workforce, they did an incredible job,” Emma says. Unable to complete placements during the pandemic, hundreds of medical and healthcare students gained casual employment and clinical experience, supporting their studies. Training staff to the highest standards to deliver an exceptional experience for citizens, Marty Dawson, a senior experience trainer from Qantas, brought the team together, and “did an amazing job”, according to Emma. The team then had further support from the Australian Defence Force, providing a reassuring presence on site, ensuring operations ran smoothly and safely.
From Qantas pilots to Jetstar cabin crew, Qudos chefs to concert security, the teams did a phenomenal job pivoting their skills to the clinical environment. Whether trying to get their teams back in the air, or bands back on stage, they had one thing in common. Delivering the impossible, together, so the show could go on. Providing essential on-the-ground support, with 770 staff on site at any moment, they kept the vaccination hub running from as early as 7am to as late as 11pm, seven days a week.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our people, partners and the ways we worked together as one,” Graeme says. “Their breadth of expertise and depth of collaboration is just amazing.” Chris Ladds, PwC's Digital Health Director, credits this approach as the secret to delivering high-quality, sustained outcomes and trust across teams. “Everyone, from senior leadership to students, were considered part of the same team. Always solving together, that’s The New Equation.” Across the teams, there was a willingness to combine unique skills and do something that hadn’t been done before, with teams bringing an unexpected combination of clinical, project, event and even construction management expertise, alongside the wider experience. Speaking to the importance of not having preconceived ideas, Emma says, “the team were always learning and growing”. While Nathan adds it was important too “that we didn’t try to be perfectionists on our own but, rather, to consider every challenge together.”
That meant solving on every level. From working with the likes of Sydney Olympic Park Authority, to obtaining licences, road signage, parking, security, catering, managing taxis, and even changing train timetables. “The sheer magnitude in setting something like this up extends well beyond being a health facility,” Emma says. Not to mention, the site itself contains a staggering 50km of electrical cable, 45km of data cable, plus 200 computers.
“It works like clockwork,” Graeme says. “On any given day, it doesn’t look busy out the front, but inside we’d do thousands of vaccinations. This was always the goal,” he says, with smart workflows reducing the turnaround time for vaccination from 5 minutes to about 90 seconds. The team were able to successfully maintain a high standard of care around social distancing, masks, managing check-ins and screening arrivals, even as throughput increased by the thousands each day. “Our process is now so tight, it not only helps our operations, it benefits other centres too, because our flow is managed so well,” Emma says. “We can easily supply vaccines to other hubs, if requested.”
“The buzz across Sydney is huge,” Graeme says. “It’s not only a site for vaccination. It’s an example of how organisations – from public to private – can solve problems and create solutions together.” As Emma says, “not only have we delivered vaccines, we’ve delivered for people.” As a community, “we can all feel proud, knowing everyone has played a part in making history and helping to change the direction of this pandemic.”
“Hopefully soon, I'll be standing in this same arena watching a concert,” adds Ben Bosworth, Manager at PwC. “And I’ll think of all the amazing people who came together, and the outcomes achieved here to make that possible.”
This is what PwC’s global brand positioning, The New Equation, is all about. A community of solvers coming together in unexpected ways to build, earn and share trust – delivering sustained outcomes for clients, citizens and communities across Australia.
A rockstar effort of epic proportions, “I couldn’t be more proud of our teams and grateful for our partners through this experience,” Graeme says.
“It’s the performance of a lifetime.”
National Health & Wellbeing Industry Leader, PwC Australia
Tel: +61 2 8266 0990