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Burns surgeon Peter Haertsch honoured

Colleagues and patients celebrated the career and contributions of specialist burns reconstructive surgeon Associate Professor Peter Haertsch AM. 

A group of people stand either side of a painting provided as a gift.
SydneyConnect Image: Professor Peter Haertsch (second from right) is awarded an artwork of Concord Hospital.

After a lifetime of achievements and service to Concord Hospital; colleagues, staff, patients and family members of Peter Haertsch celebrated his career at a farewell event for the recently retired surgeon. 

As one of the nation’s leading specialist reconstructive plastic surgeons, Associate Professor Haertsch was an integral part of Concord Hospital’s surgical staff and Burns Unit for over five decades. 

Sydney Local Health District Chief Executive, Dr Teresa Anderson AM recalled how it was Peter’s vision that saw the establishment of the first dedicated burns unit at Concord. 

“Peter's absolute focus on patient and family-centered care has been fundamental to his practice,” she said. 

"It was his dedication and passion for burns and reconstructive surgery which saw the initiation of the Concord Hospital Burns Centre and the NSW Severe Burns Injury Service.” 

The establishment of integrated services across three hospitals (at Concord, Royal North Shore and Westmead Children's Hospital) transformed the treatment of adult and paediatric burn injuries in NSW.  

“I want to congratulate Peter for his partnerships and being able to work across three burns units to ensure the fabulous outcomes for people in NSW who have experienced burns,” Dr Anderson said. 

“We honour an amazing lifetime of achievements and service, not only to Concord Hospital but to the thousands of patients whose stories he shaped for the better. 

“His contributions to research in his field and to future plastic surgeons has helped shape the future for reconstructive surgery, not only in Australia but internationally.” 

Professor Peter Haertsch stands alongside Turia Pitt while someone takes their photo on a phone.
SydneyConnect Image: Professor Peter Haertsch with Turia Pitt, who he treated for burns at Concord Hospital.

In 2003, Associate Professor Peter Haertsch was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his work treating Bali bombing victims. He was further awarded a Member in the General Division (AM) in 2018, for significant services to medicine in the field of plastic and reconstructive surgery, as a clinician, administrator, and to the advancement of medical education. 

Haertsch held pivotal roles in the Australia and New Zealand Burn Association, the Sydney University Burns Foundation and for medical and volunteer organisations across NSW, Australia, Asia and the South Pacific.  

The hospital’s head of department, Professor Peter Maitz reflected on the contribution of his “mentor, and friend” in establishing Concord’s burns unit. 

“Peter introduced the concept of multi-disciplinary care in surgery which was unknown in the eastern seaboard of Australia (at the time),” Professor Maitz said. 

“I hope you accept our gratitude for all these years of relentless energy, engagement and drive to foster and further surgery, people and patients.” 

In reflecting on his career which saw him hone his specialist skills in the UK and USA, Peter Haertsch acknowledged those who supported him along the way in expanding the network and speciality of burns surgery, including with the American Burn Association. 

“We put Concord on the map. The Americans know about Concord.”  

A/Professor Haertsch was presented with a Concord Repatriation General Hospital service medallion for 55 years’ service by the chief executive and the hospital’s acting general manager, Joseph Jewitt.  

“It is with very mixed emotions that I farewell my beloved Concord, as I've referred to it over so many decades,” he said.