Obituary: Barbara (Barb) Roberts
To Barbara (Barb) Roberts, newborn hearing screening (NBHS) was not just a job – it was a role that she felt so strongly about and committed to. Right from the very beginning, when the newborn hearing screening programme was introduced at West Coast District Health Board (DHB), Barb went above and beyond to help set up the service and ensure no baby missed the opportunity to have their hearing tested.
Everyone who knew Barb commented on her warmth and kindness. Mary, her colleague, spoke of how close she and Barb were, both professionally and personally. Despite the challenges they faced Mary commented that “we never had a cross word and I always knew that Barb had my back!” Together, Barb and Mary, delivered an exceptional screening programme to all the babies and their Whānau on the West Coast.
The remoteness of some communities, the weather and the ruggedness of the region means delivering newborn hearing screening at the West Coast DHB is not without its challenges. But Barb and Mary knew their community well and delivered services that were truly focused on supporting families to engage with the programme. This included screening babies soon after birth, regardless of the time of day. Rachel Simpson, Coordinator and Screener at Southern DHB, joked about how they would often receive screening test forms that showed that screening has been completed in the early hours of the morning. It was a unique service that served the local community well.
Through her thoughtful approach, Barb built relationships with the parents and their wider whānau and this made a big difference in encouraging families to engage – they trusted and respected her. “I never had to worry about what was happening with the programme as I knew Barb was delivering the best care to her community” said Dr Samantha Everitt, Principal Advisor in the Antenatal and Newborn Screening team.
Babies who required further testing by audiology were seen by the audiology service at Canterbury DHB. Barb forged excellent relationships with her colleagues across the Alps. “Barb was a wonderful person and on my visits to the Coast I had the occasion to meet her several times. She was pragmatic and approachable. I remember her beautiful laughter” said Gurjoat Vraich, Charge Audiologist at the DHB.
Dawn Kremers, Clinical Midwife Manager at West Coast DHB spoke of how important Barb was to the many people who knew her professionally. “Barb was a valued member of our Maternity team who worked well with all staff. She loved doing the NBHS and the families she screened appreciated her caring manner. Barb worked as an enrolled nurse for over 47 years, it is so strange not seeing her smiling face on the ward, she will be missed.”
Barb passed away on June 22, 2021. She was a strong and supportive colleague and friend to the wider NBHS community and passionate advocate for the benefits of the programme. She will be much missed by all the people whose lives she touched in her role as Coordinator and newborn hearing screener.