GLF 2016 participant Claire Taylor reflects on the Governor’s Leadership Foundation Program Seminar 8: Leadership & Health; a component of the Governor’s Leadership Foundation (GLF) program. Throughout the year various 2016 GLF participants will contribute to a series of blog posts about their experiences and insights of the GLF program.
Examining the topic of health from the perspective of consumers and shapers of the system and its services was illuminating.
We started the day with an address from Gerry O’Callaghan, Director of Intensive Care Services which highlighted the complexity of the health system and how many wicked problems there are to consider within the Transforming Health agenda. Gerry talked about some of the data that is being used to underpin the transforming health agenda and it struck me that it is very difficult to tell a compelling story about the necessity of a world-class tertiary medical facility using bed statistics. What was far more compelling were the vignettes from health such as the 80 year old man trying to get himself ready for 5am surgery or the consultants not available at night. These vignettes prompt one to ask how the system can be more patient centric and less systemised- and is this even possible for such a large system? As stakeholders I think that we all agree that replacing the out-moded Royal Adelaide Hospital with a modern world-class facility is a positive step forward for our state. Time will tell how the Transforming Health program will affect other parts of the health system as it is so far reaching that results cannot be predicted in advance.
Brad Chillcott, who our cohort engaged with earlier in his role as the Founder of Welcome to Australia, talked about his experience of the health system with his son Harrison who has ongoing health challenges. It was wonderful of Brad to tell us of his positive interactions with the health system in both New South Wales and South Australia and so good of him to give up his time as his son faced further hospitalisation and was celebrating his birthday that day. The take-away message from Brad for me was that no matter what health challenges we are faced with it is important to maintain a level of agency as there are always anomalies and survivors that can’t be accounted for in systems and statistics.
I enjoyed the format of the health consumer session which, after a five minute introduction from each guest, was run using World Café methodology. All members of the panel enlightened us with their particular interface with the system from multiple perspectives. Overall it seems that most consumers of our health system have had very positive experiences, however it seems that as a society we are rather stuck with what to do around the topic of death. It seems that we are not comfortable about death as it has become industrialised in recent history, coupled with this is our desire to disavow people of their agency in choosing when they will die ie the voluntary euthanasia debate.
In the afternoon we heard from a panel of health shapers in terms of those in positions of influence from various sub-sets of the system. It was interesting to hear about their varied experience of leadership in health and the issues that they have all faced. What seemed to be a common theme for all was their passion for making a difference for people and translating this passion into affecting system change. The majority of this panel were all very experienced and had worked across government and non-government for many years and experienced much change and upheaval and seemed to relish these experiences. They were all great examples of leaders, whether their leadership was informal or formal it had seemed to switch to and fro, for many of the panel, over time.
Finally we were lucky enough to be able to see how Country Health SA, have used an integral approach to analyse the performance of their system. It was great to be able to see the framework in action and I am pretty sure we all walked away feeling inspired to do the same in our own workplaces.
Through my work in child protection what often comes across is the power of individuals and small interventions to improve outcomes for vulnerable children and young people. People who are interacting with the health system are often at their most vulnerable so it is a similar context. Often the best therapy is in the relationship rather than the counselling methodology or the specific health treatment which can’t easily be quantified and measured. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; “systems don’t heal people, people do” unknown quote.
Senior Project Officer
Families SA / Residential Care