Patient Support Office
PATIENT SUPPORT OFFICE
Mr CRITTENDEN: My question is directed to the Deputy Premier, Minister for Health, and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. What progress has the Patient Support Office made in assisting patients in the health care system?
Dr REFSHAUGE: The budget is about patient support, as has been recognised by the Penrith Press. In its first edition after the budget was handed done, it carried the front-page headline "Baby budget". The budget looks after the babies of Penrith. The article stated:
The budget provides a secure future for the patients and babies of Nepean Hospital. The Penrith Press even reported the honourable member for Hawkesbury saying that there was good news in the budget. The budget contains lots of good news for people who live in the greater west. The Government is spending an extra $805 million to secure better hospitals and new services.
Mr Armstrong: Show us, Andrew. I don't believe you.
Dr REFSHAUGE: Obviously the Leader of the National Party does not want the West Wyalong hospital to go ahead - I will take that on notice. The Patient Support Office is a new service. It is one of this Government's significant initiatives. The office helps patients who have concerns and helps them to feel secure in the health care system. Last November, seven patient support officers went to work at six locations in Sydney and at one location in the Hunter. They have been helping patients who have queries or concerns about a range of health services and workers in the health care system, including public and private hospitals, doctors, nurses, medical centres, dentists, counsellors and physiotherapists.
When people are confronted by illness, they often feel upset and anxious. Hospitals and high-tech medical treatment can be difficult to understand. It would be easy for a patient to feel out of his depth and at a loss when facing illness. The health care system is complex. It is a stressful emotional time for patients, and problems and extra worry are the last thing they need. That is why the project is proving so important. The patient support officers help patients in a range of ways. For example, they can discuss any issue of concern, provide information about patient rights and suggest ways that complaints can be resolved. Many problems can be resolved locally and quickly. If problems are not resolved quickly they can develop into greater problems. Problems which are solved early in the piece produce a better treatment response and therapeutic outlook. Prompt action is preventing problems from having to go before the Health Care Complaints Commission.
The service is free and confidential, and it involves a simple phone call. The officers are employed by the Health Care Complaints Commission so patients can be sure that they are independent of any health service provider, any hospital, any area health service or the Department of Health. Since last November, the seven officers have received favourable comments not only from the people they have helped - that is, the patients - but also from health workers. I shall highlight a number of examples that show the importance of solving a problem promptly. A woman who had a bad reaction to an anaesthetic 20 years ago needed to have another operation. She wanted to know from the original hospital what anaesthetic was used previously so she could tell her doctor. The hospital told the woman that the information was not available. However, the patient support officer stepped in and clarified with the hospital the importance of the information. The hospital then found the woman's details in its archives and provided the woman with the information she needed.
In another example an elderly man who is blind and cannot walk waited for months for modifications to his home so he could use a wheelchair. The patient support officer found that the delay had been caused by misunderstandings between the man and the organisation arranging the modifications. A quick solution was found and the
work was done on the man's home. The blind man can now use a wheelchair to gain access to his home. In another instance, a woman rang the patient support office upset that a doctor had abused her about the loss of some X-rays. The patient support officer contacted the doctor and explained the woman's concerns. The doctor was horrified about the perception of his attitude and asked the officer to convey his apology to the woman for the misunderstanding. He thanked the officer for bringing the matter to his attention. The woman was pleased with the outcome of the intervention of the patient support officer. his project is an example of the Government's commitment to patients. The Government wishes to ensure that patients are aware of their rights and feel secure knowing that there are people who can help them find their way through the health care system.
Future babies born at Nepean are the local winners in this week's budget.