RMH Emergency Physician Dr Amaali Lokuge has painted a portrait of fellow RMH Emergency Dr Emma West to honour her colleagues’ hard work and sacrifices during the peak of the COVID-19 second wave in Victoria.
The portrait, entered in the Archibald Prize, features Dr West in full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) holding the hand of a patient. The painting also includes an oxygen mask; a common COVID-19 treatment.
Dr Lokuge, who has been painting since high school, said the artwork is a way to immortalise the efforts of frontline healthcare workers during COVID-19.
“COVID-19 won’t be here forever, so I wanted to provide a permanent record of the time for staff members to look on and be proud of their efforts,” she said.
Dr Lokuge said she chose Dr West as the artwork’s subject because she was a “gem” during the state’s second wave.
“During the uncertainties and looming restrictions, Emma was one of the key people who set us back on track, working together with a clear focus,” she said.
“I really look up to her as a physician; she shows a lot of vulnerability. That is what I tried to portray on the painting.”
Dr West says the artwork showed one aspect of the pandemic most Emergency Department staff found difficult during that time; strict visitor restrictions.
“The hardest part of COVID-19 restrictions was seeing patients alone, in a vulnerable situation without their families,” Dr West said.
“Patients needed us more than ever. We were privileged to be there for patients in their time of need, and holding the hands of patients was something we did often”
“It’s not just a representation of me – the painting is a representation of all healthcare workers working through COVID-19”
Dr West, who is “humbled” by the portrait, said that is a reflection of Dr Lokuge’s drive and passion for her work.
“Amaali is not only an incredible emergency doctor, she’s a positive member of our team,” she said.
This is not the first time Dr Lokuge has paid tribute to her colleagues. She is an accomplished writer who has written on Australia’s COVID-19 response for The New York Times.
“She’s extremely talented," Dr West said.
"She puts us all to shame with her art and writing skills!”
Dr Lokuge’s artwork hangs in the Emergency Department offices, as a “thank you” to staff.