Engaging Community

In June 2015, the Women’s and Children’s Health Network (WCHN) established a cultural roundtable to engage consumers – the people who use their services – to actively participate in the direction of the WCHN, to be involved in the design, planning and review processes of service development, including the development of policy, services and facilities. The cultural roundtable reports to a peak body, the Consumer Community Partnership Council, which is chaired by the WCHN CEO.

SALT Magazine spoke with Allan J. Ball who is the Manager of Consumer and Community Engagement at Adelaide’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital Campus. We discussed how the WCHN are researching and incorporating the needs of new Australians into their policies and strategic planning.

What’s your main role here?

The main thing that I do is to ensure that all of the patients – our consumers, the women, babies, children, and teenagers – are receiving an experience in health care that is fully respectful, dignified, and ensures that our eight ways to personal-centred care are upheld.
My main role is to support the network to ensure that we are partnering with consumers effectively.

Tell our readers about the cultural roundtable meetings.

Our cultural roundtable, which is now a network-wide peak body, looks at cultural affairs. We meet every six weeks. Community members, consumer reps meet with me. It’s a bilateral partnership with Multicultural Youth SA (MYSA). We work together and we host it there at MYSA, and the agenda that we put up is items that are relevant to advancing better care, better services for CALD groups. So it’s an equal meeting of staff, community members, community reps from child protection and NGOs.

What are some of the common issues from the African Community?

Our Women and Babies division supports everything from antenatal and post-natal, to parenting classes, right through to our CAF [child and family] health which is supporting new mums, depending on the level of need, for maybe a few visits or maybe for few months. This is probably the number one service that is used by new arrivals, and I think we are getting better at it. The other service probably used the most is our child adolescent mental health services.

Do you have trained African consumer advocates?

At the moment, there are 121 on our register; few are from the African community. We are looking for interested individuals to join our consumer advocacy groups, and we do pay sitting fees, reimbursement – we want it to grow.

What is the most common feedback you get from engagement with communities?

95 percent of the time we’re getting it right, and when we don’t get it right it’s often because staff maybe have assumed or haven’t taken the time to ask. It’s almost like this simplistic but very necessary campaign that it’s okay to ask questions, that if you don’t know ask us. So I think most of the complaints come from that miscommunication/misinterpretation.

What is your motivation for doing what you do?

My mum passed away when I was 7 years old, in a fire. That was my first interaction with the hospital system, and it is something that changes you. I didn’t realise at the time that I was a consumer myself of this hospital.

It was a social worker, for me, who really took the time to build the relationship and help me to understand the grief, and that the loss is going to be a lifetime thing; and gave me the skills as a little kid. So I’ll never forget it.

We are all consumers of health, and I know how frustrating it is when you feel that you’ve been betrayed or not listened to. So what powers me through this journey is I know how scary it can be being in hospital and not knowing the answers.

Do you have a special message for our readers?

First of all, we want to say that the Women’s and Children’s Health Network is your health service, and we need you to come on board with us to help design what that looks like. With the transformation of the health agenda, there is no time greater than right now to be able to partner bilaterally with us and to let us know how we should be working, how we should be doing it.

I want them to come on board, even if it is just to receive a newsletter, to be informed; or they can come on board to join the committee and be paid for it. And dads too!

Sidique is the founder of Salt Magazine. He came to Australia in 2001 after fleeing a civil war in his homeland of Sierra Leone. He studied journalism at Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone and worked as a reporter for the Statesman Newspaper. He studied a Bachelor of Arts specialising in Multimedia Studies at the University of South Australia.

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