‘It’s just stuff’: Doctor leaves all possessions behind in Australia to return to work in Ireland

Dr Marianne Hennigan was stranded in New Zealand when restrictions came in

The world has changed completely since Dr Marianne Hennigan started a four-week holiday in New Zealand in mid-March.

Then, governments were waking up to the reality of Covid-19, but it was still a disease mostly confined to China and Europe and not to Australia and New Zealand.

Nobody expected the raft of restrictions which would shut down the world in the space of a few weeks. Within a week of her arrival in New Zealand, the bus tour was cancelled and she, along with others on the tour, was forced to self-isolate in Auckland.

Dr Hennigan (31), originally from Deansgrange, Co Dublin, was working in Perth at the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital as a locum doctor in emergency medicine.


Like hundreds of other Irish newly-qualified doctors she found the opportunities and the climate in Perth agreeable and had spent three years there.

Her flight back to Perth from Auckland was abruptly cancelled with no replacement available.

In this hiatus, she made up her mind not to go back to Perth at all, but leave her car and her possessions there and return to Ireland to work.

“In the end of the day it’s just stuff. I really enjoyed working in Perth,” she said. “It was lovely, the biggest thing that I regret is that I didn’t get to say goodbye to any of my friends when I left. I’m sure I will at some point. Unfortunately, none of us really expected what was going to happen.”

Her marathon flight home, first to Doha in Qatar, and then to Ireland was facilitated by the Ireland's Call Initiative which is not to be confused with On Call for Ireland, the HSE call for healthcare professionals, students and volunteers to help tackle coronavirus in Ireland.

The Ireland's Call Initiative was set up by businessman Neil Sands as a philanthropic enterprise to bring doctors and nurses home from abroad and to pay for their flights and accommodation in self-isolation for a fortnight.

Ireland’s Call hopes to bring home 100 Irish medics from abroad in the coming months.

She is the first to be repatriated under the initiative and one of more than 50,000 people who have offered their services to the HSE since last month.

“We are not the real heroes,” she stressed. “The real heroes are the people who have been there from day one. We are the reinforcements.

“I am delighted to be home. I was particularly happy to see my mum at the airport. It is just a relief to be coming home for the foreseeable future and that I won’t be stuck.

“The main fear is that working in ICU, where it is high-risk, if I were to get sick, my family wouldn’t be able to come out to see me in Perth. At this time you want to be in proximity with your family and around Irish people.”

She will need the next fortnight to register for and find work. Her experience in emergency respiratory medicine in Perth will be invaluable for her and for the HSE as it seeks to cope with the pandemic.

There will be other business to attend to and making a will is something she feels is necessary given the risks involved.

“I think everybody is fearful at this point in time when you see young healthcare workers getting sick and dying,” she said.

“It is obvious that I didn’t intend to do it at this stage of my life. It is our profession and it is something that I want to help out. I would much rather be in the front line helping out than being stuck in another country in an Airbnb.”

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times