Friday, September 2, 2011

President's speech reflecting on consumer representation in the last year.

On 1 September 2011 the ACT Minister for Health hosted a reception at the Legislative Assembly to thank consumer representatives for their contribution to the development of health services.  Adele Stevens,  HCCA President, gave the following speech at the event.

2011 marks my third year as a President of the Health Care Consumers’ Association (HCCA)  of the ACT, and I am proud to say that the third year of my tenure has been just as productive as the first two.  Integral to the important work of HCCA are the committed and hardworking consumer representatives, who tirelessly devote their time and energy to providing consumer input on a range of significant health matters.  It is great to see that their contribution is being honoured today.

This year, HCCA has supported 34 consumer representatives on 67 health committees across the Territory and all divisions of ACT Health.  In addition to this representation on committees, we have trained 22 new consumer representatives in March and May/June and are expecting a further 15 participants for our September training.  As we have 34 consumer reps on 67 committees, this means that on average each rep is on about 2 – 3 committees.  My experience as a rep demonstrates this. 

I am a consumer rep on 3 committees - I have been one of the consumer representatives on the Clinical Audit Committee for a number of years now.  This is a very important committee as it examines when things go wrong in the ACT Health service and looks at ways to prevent these mistakes happening again. 

Secondly, following this, I joined the Respecting Patient Choices committee as their only consumer rep.  This is an area of health care which I am passionate about.  I am one of the growing number of older people who are worried about being kept alive with no quality of life by a health system which has gone mad with technology to prolong life.  The Respecting Patient Choices program provides a way for us to register our end of life wishes and for these instructions to be available to health care professional should I arrive at hospital and am not able to make my wishes known.  I am pleased to say that that ACT Health has doubled the funding to this program in the last year.  The cost of the program is minuscule compared to the money we waste in intensive care keeping old people alive who have made clear that they do not want to keep living without a good prospect of a decent quality of life.

Third, in the last year, I have joined a committee, under the Capital Asset Development Program, overseeing the redevelopment of the Community Health Centres in the ACT.  This is an exciting project with a new model of patient centred care for the community service.  This means integrating all the different patient records into a single patient record, which means merging our e-health records that are in separate services – eg dental, mental health, continuing care in community – into one record per patient - a challenging task to achieve by the time the new centres are due to open next year.

Health Care Consumers is an organisation which is committed to supporting the improvement of our health record with e-health technology, and the joint work of both of us, HCCA and ACT Health on the e-health consumer reference group is an good example of an innovative way both HCCA and ACT Health are working together to advance electronic health care services to improve health care.

But let us move on from the consumers representation program, to some of the other work we do. In addition to their role as consumer representatives on specific committees, members regularly attend events organised by HCCA which aim to deliver consumer input on a variety of health issues.  This year HCCA Consumer Representatives have attended a myriad of events, including the regular e-Health Consumer Reference and Health Issues Groups and Capital Asset Development Program Representatives meetings.

The growth in acceptance of the place of consumers at the table continues and this year we continue to experience high numbers of requests for consumer representation.  We know our colleagues at the Mental Health Consumers’ Network share our experience. 

We are receiving an increasing number of phone calls from the public seeking guidance and support on how to navigate the system.  We are working hard to ensure that consumer participation is not limited to consumer representation on committees.  We are committed to working with ACT Health staff to convene round tables and consultative fora on health service plans, medication safety, workforce development, e-health and the development and implementation of the national health reform agenda.

The e-health consumer reference group has developed over this year. We are the only jurisdiction in Australia to have a dedicated reference group of this type. We would like to acknowledge the support of the ACT Health Directorate for their continuing involvement in this committee. I would also like to thank Russell McGowan for his energy and vision in chairing this group.

The Consumer Representatives Program is truly the cornerstone of HCCA. I am proud to note that this program goes from strength to strength as evidenced by the commitment and dedication of our representatives.

Adele Stevens

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