Eight years ago Tracy hadn’t heard of Lymphoedema – a swelling in an area of the body due to damaged lymph nodes.
Tracy was a fit, active young woman, competing in track and field. Lymphoedema hadn’t crossed her mind – why would it? However, that was about to change when she rolled her ankle while taking part in a search and rescue exercise. “My ankle started to swell up, however instead of the swelling coming down over time, it got worse. At one stage you couldn’t tell my ankle from the rest of my leg,” says Tracy.
Imagine you are experiencing a long-term health condition that is having a big effect on your life. While your doctor can tell you what your condition is and your treatment options, for many people it’s not until they talk to someone who has “walked in their shoes”, and has the time to listen and understand their individual circumstances, that they start to find ways to cope with, recover from, or live well with their condition.
This powerful tool of engagement is called Peer Support, and it’s being used by the Kia Kaha team, led by health psychologist Leona Didsbury at East Tamaki Healthcare, to change the way services connect with people who have long-term conditions, who are not managing well. I’m now joined by David Codyre, Psychiatrist and Clinical Lead Manaaki Hauora, Supporting Wellness Campaign to tell us more.
“There needs to be compassion and humanity – professionals need to think about the impact of their words and actions.” Mental Health Service user
A wise man once told me told me, you can’t have health without mental health, and I’m a firm believer that we should prioritise mental health alongside physical health, and not treat them as separate issues. In New Zealand, an estimated one in three people cope with a mental health condition at any one time – of that number, approximately one in five people in Counties Manukau seek support and care for their mental health needs. Many of these people also suffer from chronic health conditions such as diabetes or heart failure, and if you have a mental health condition, you are three times more likely to experience an avoidable hospital admission.
In terms of addictions, it is estimated that one in ten people use drugs and/or alcohol, with approximately 10,000 people in Counties experiencing harmful effects as a result, and in need of treatment.
We know the current mental health and addictions system is fragmented – that’s why the Mental Health Service at CM Health is embarking on a programme of work to transform the MH&A (Mental Health and Addiction) system. Through better integration and intervening early to keep people well, people using MH&A services will have an improved experience and better health outcomes. We will also continue to ensure a focus on supporting people with severe and enduring mental health needs.
I’m joined by Pete Watson, Clinical Director Mental Health and Tess Ahern, GM Mental Health to tell us about their approach.
Yesterday (10 September) CM Health launched its refreshed values and strategic plan, signaling a new and exciting era for our organisation. This work has been months in the planning with over 2000 people sharing their ideas as to how we can consistently be at our best for our patients, whaanau and families, and each other, and the choices we need to make to progress our goal to work together to achieve health equity.
While the conversations around our ‘Healthy Together’ strategy will continue (click here for our strategic plan), our new values: Kind, Valuing everyone, Together and Excellent, tell a story of how we can provide great care and a great experience at work.
The other night I met a lovely lady called Teresa and her husband Andrew. Teresa works in the Call Centre at the Manukau SuperClinic, and earlier this year underwent a double lung transplant, recovering at Auckland’s Hearty Towers – a rehabilitation unit for transplant patients. While Teresa’s life has now dramatically changed for the better, for example she’s currently in training for her first duathalon, her journey starts back in August 2013. It was during this time that Teresa picked up a virus called RSV. RSV is a respiratory virus that infects your lungs and breathing passages, and while most healthy people, manage to bounce back, Teresa wasn’t so lucky, ending up in Intensive Care.
For some people making big changes in their lives can be sparked off by a health event. For others, it’s about looking at the bigger picture.
For 37-year-old Penina, her motivation to improve her health was spurred on by her son. As a single mum whose health was spiralling out of control, she suddenly woke up one morning and thought who would look after her son if she wasn’t around. Penina had a powerful vision to change her life, for the better. This is her story.
Our volunteers do a wonderful job, and it was great to see this acknowledged during National Volunteer Week (21-27 June). To top off the week, our Manukau SuperClinic (MSC) volunteers were runner-ups at the 2015 Minister of Health Volunteer Awards. Presenting the Award for ‘Health care provider service volunteer team’ was Associate Health Minister Hon Peseta Sam Lotu-liga. “This award shows what people can do when they work together,” said Hon Peseta Sam Lotu-liga. “You are indeed the face behind great customer service.”
While it was great for our MSC volunteers to be recognised, all of our volunteers at CM Health offer their time generously to help patients and visitors throughout our various sites. Being the first face, our visitors see as they come through the doors, a warm welcome, and a smile from a volunteer does wonders for a person, who may be vulnerable, anxious or unsure where to go.