Grainne O’Loughlin, HSA President and CEO of Karitane
Some years seem to go faster than others. It feels like only yesterday that we were celebrating the New Year yet we’re already nearing the second quarter. Perhaps that’s because the first three months of 2022 saw the Omicron outbreak and widespread flooding in NSW, challenging the already overstretched health and social services sector.
Life will always surprise us and it is encouraging to see how individuals and organisations adapt in response to the unexpected. Yet, amongst all of this, the human brain is also capable of impressive strategic planning. That’s why the Health Services Association (HSA) has been surveying the NSW healthcare landscape and identifying where we can help shape it in 2022 and beyond.
Aligning with the Future Health Strategy
As a group of organisations receiving funds from NSW Health, we seek to align ourselves to support the priorities of the newly launched NSW Future Health Strategy. The HSA is committed to creating a sustainable health system that delivers outcomes that matter most to patients and the community, is personalized, invests in wellness and is digitally enabled
There are some clear synergies with the work of several HSA members already in regard to engaging patients in their own care, early intervention support and virtual care/digital health. The HSA recognizes the value of collaboration and working in partnership.
The first 2,000 days of a child’s life are recognised as being of particular importance for their lifelong health and wellbeing. This is why HSA members such as Karitane and Tresillian, work so hard to support parents and equip them with the skills they need to foster their child’s development.
Digital health has been an important part of the government’s emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, though, it is time to embed virtual care into the normal, everyday business of health service delivery. This year, we’re likely to see the growth of hybrid models of healthcare. Patients may attend face-to-face appointments for initial examination or tests, then have their next few appointments through video telehealth. Or any combination of virtual care that best meets their needs and increases timely access to care.
What might that look like in the public health sector? How could telehealth help you to:
- Offer greater convenience to your patients and greater workplace flexibility for your staff?
- Develop innovative services in palliative care, rehabilitation, early intervention, chronic disease management or cancer care?
- Maintain connection with patients on the waiting list?
- Improve efficiency, easing pressure on waiting lists or staff overtime?
- Help rural, regional and remote families gain access to specialty services without the need to travel long distances?
These are important questions in 2022.
Addressing the impact of COVID-related delays
COVID led to a reduction in health-seeking behaviours among patients who were keen to limit their exposure. It also caused the suspension of elective surgeries and created delays for necessary treatment. This has had a significant impact on many patients and the health system is working harder.
Now, we’re trying to make up for the access issues created during the COVID lockdowns. We’re trying to regain lost ground in screening, diagnostic procedures, elective surgeries and the rehabilitation that follows. This will keep certain members very, very busy in the coming months. Overcoming capacity limitations will require creative thinking and a willingness to try new approaches.
Building the HSA
Our own organisational development continues. We were thrilled to celebrate a century of the HSA’s work in building a strong public health sector in NSW last December.
This was an important celebration, honouring the contributions of many stakeholders over the last 100 years. It was also an important opportunity to build the HSA’s profile, something we’ll continue to do throughout 2022 through social media and other platforms.
We’re further strengthening our high-performance Executive and Board with the appointment of two new members:
- Dr Andrew Montague of HammondCare is welcomed as a new Director. Andrew has extensive clinical and senior management experience within the health sector both in Queensland and NSW. He is a fellow of both the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and the Royal Australasian College of Medical Administrators.
- Elizabeth McClean of Allowah is welcomed as a new member. Allowah is a licensed paediatric medical and rehabilitation private hospital, is a registered NDIS provider and a registered Voluntary Out of Home Care provider. Allowah often works with the Department of Communities and Justice to care for children with disabilities while permanent placements are found for them.
HSA’s board members are all volunteers with busy day jobs in the NSW health sector. We give our time and skills to the HSA because we know how vital our work is and how essential it is to collaborate with one another.
In my ‘day job’, I am CEO of Karitane. I know how the HSA has helped me in that role. It’s enabled me to identify whether an issue is unique to my organisation or is affecting the whole sector. It’s helped me to engage with peers, giving and receiving advice and support. And it’s helped me to help reach out to all levels of government as the HSA continues to advocate on hot topic issues affecting members.
Engaging with government
HSA advocates for its members on sector-wide issues. In recent years, we have built strong relationships with Ministers and bureaucrats across the health, disability, justice and community services portfolios.
Now, we’re also engaging with newly appointed ministers and their departmental secretaries. Deepening these new relationships will prove vital over the coming months and years.
HSA brings a constructive pattern of engagement, seeking to encourage stakeholders on sector-wide insight and commend good decisions. We’re recognized for respectful partnerships and collaborations and bringing the important collective issues to the government’s attention and for working with government teams, pillars and agencies to identify workable solutions.
With the 2023 NSW election looming, we’ll also be working on budget submissions, seeking to gain resources and support for programs that meet the needs of our community.
There is, as you can see, a great deal of work to be done this year.
There’s the core business of day-to-day patient care, including supporting those deeply affected by COVID waves.
There’s the task of strengthening the HSA itself to strengthen relations with government and ensure our voice is heard.
And there’s also the need to lead our sector through the paradigm shift of embedding virtual care into normal operations.
I am excited by these opportunities for the HSA and its members to reshape and reimagine the NSW health system to better serve our patients. I hope you are too.
Grainne O’Loughlin, HSA President and CEO of Karitane
All information is general in nature. Patients should consider their own personal circumstances and seek a second opinion.