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Introducing Paul Cooper - Consumer Representative

07 May 2019

Interview with Paul Cooper, Consumer Representative in St Vincent’s Care Services Clinical Governance Meetings

The St Vincent’s Care Services (SVCS) Clinical Governance Committee recently welcomed Paul Cooper as a Consumer Representative. Paul has a diverse background working with various non-clinical and clinical boards, and his mother is a resident of St Vincent's Care Services Mitchelton. His experience includes serving on the Children’s Health Queensland board, as Chair of the Australian Advanced Manufacturing and Growth Centre, and Chairman of the Queensland Health, Audit, Risk and Finance Committee. The SVCS Marketing and Communications team sat down with Paul to discuss his role as a Consumer Representative, and what that means for St Vincent's Care Services and our residents and clients.

Tell us more about your relationship with St Vincent's Care Services.

“So my mum has been in aged care for a number of years. She was in a facility on Brisbane’s south side, and was transferred there from acute care after a number of falls at home. That was fantastic. It gave mum the ability to go in, to get used to operating without dad around all the time, and in an environment where she was being cared for, three good meals a day and 24 hour care. We struggled with that probably more than she did, and she went into a secure facility immediately. 
“After a couple of years it became very difficult for dad to transit to the other side of town. He was unable to drive anymore and he was doing six bus trips, three and a half hours of travel a day to see mum. So that became very trying and it was really weighing heavily on him and the rest of the family. We did have mum's name down at St Vincent’s Care Services Mitchelton for a number of years, hoping for a transfer and we got the call to say mum was eligible for a transfer in June last year and happened really from a Friday until Monday, it was very quick.
“She went straight into Shannon (secure dementia community) at Mitchelton, and that's been fantastic. Number one, it's a specialist facility, it's small, it looks and feels small even though it's brand new. That's been really good for her. It's been absolutely a godsend for dad. His decline in health has not been as rapid since mum was there. So he's now 12 minutes, one bus ride each way and, it's perfect for him. He still goes there six days a week to see mum in the facility.

Why did you nominate to become a Consumer Representative?

“Initially, I didn't realise there was a forum for a Consumer Representative. But after SVCS Mitchelton was sanctioned in late 2018, I took more of an interest, and that was only two and a half months after Mum became a resident. After attending a couple of the Residents and Relatives meetings, I put my hand up and made an offer to say that if there is an opportunity to assist in the governance aspect of it, from my experience in other health services but not being from a clinical background, that I might be able to help.”

Tell us more about your role as a Consumer Representative and what is involved.

“So in the role as a Consumer Rep, it's not about looking after my Mum's care in her facility. Your Consumer Representative is there to look at things from a consumer perspective across the entire organisation, across the entire service offering across Australia. It's to bring a consumer view to the decisions that are being made. As the organisation continues to mature, I can provide input into how this is going to work, and ask the questions. I'm not here to talk about whether my mum's soup is too hot or her tea’s too cold, those types of single data points aren't useful in discussing how to improve the care overall. The questioning that I provide at the meetings is not around those types of issues, it's around the higher level issues.”

What kind of changes do you believe the Clinical Governance Meetings can bring about?

“A lot of that is some of the cross pollination of ideas, which I'm seeing already. I saw some fantastic stories today (in a multi-facility SVCS Clinical Governance staff meeting) about some improvements that were made in particular facilities that haven't quite been achieved in others. There were ideas passed across the table and across the videoconference around Australia where good things can be shared, and good things can be implemented. Bringing all of those facilities together into a single environment is very, very useful. I'm seeing it in action already. I'm seeing great stories about reduction in physical and chemical restraints, improvement in care, improvement in feeding and (food) texture control. That is something that can only be achieved by bringing people together and saying, “look, this is what we've found that works, or we’re using this particular standard.” That's where the benefit is in having a particular forum like this.”

How do you view the care and support offered by St Vincent's Care Services currently? 

“Fantastic. It's given me a view on some of the things that you see when you go and see your loved one in care, you look at it and you say, “well hang on, why is that happening?” In that something could be improved or, I was seeing this happening and that's fantastic. In this forum (Clinical Governance Meeting) here, it allows me to benchmark that against what I'm seeing in the facility and saying, “well, I know this is being looked at on an Australia-wide basis and improvements are happening, or this improvement is because of what I've seen happening at these meetings.” So, I'm seeing some of the decisions made in these meetings being translated back into the care context at Mitchelton, immediately.”

What kind of changes would you like to see at St Vincent's Care Services?

“I'd like to see some more of the data and the trend data, and that process is maturing, with the new RiskMan (risk management software), the changes that are happening with AutumnCare (clinical care software) and the implementation nationally with those platforms. I'm seeing that data will become more important in this. Now people aren't data, but outcomes lead to data and data can inform so much of care. An increase in falls in a particular setting can start to raise questions about, is that a built environment issue? Is it a training issue? Is it a particular resident issue? So it allows, I think, a view to see how this is improving overall and looking at it from, the macro, meso and micro level into each one of the services.”

What do you think St Vincent's Care Services does well currently?

“I think there are a number of things. I would say the feeding (food services) that's occurring, there's good stats that are coming through on unexplained weight changes that are being responded to very, very quickly. I think the change in diets that I was seeing on a regular basis in the facilities, some work's being done between the speech pathology profession and the care teams as well as the catering teams and food prep to ensure that there is a consistency in the measurement of the food that is going through. I think that's important, especially for reducing choking hazards. So they're the sorts of things that I'm seeing that are spinning back in that full circle of feedback coming back to improve care at the bedside.”

What are your thoughts on the shift towards Consumer Directed Care?

“It's essential. Consumer directed care is everything. At Children's Health Queensland we've always had the view and language of patient and family centred care. I think consumer directed care is useful feedback in this particular setting, being in mature age people because there is so much knowledge that's coming from know the broader consumer context that can be applied back in here. I think it's not just useful, it's an essential tool.”

What impact do you see this having on St Vincent's Care Services and aged care in general?

“I'd like to see the stats improved. That's really what it's all about. Because as those statistics improve, as those measures are starting to improve overall, then on know that what's happening at the bedside is improving. So if we're getting fewer unexplained incidences at the bedside, happier residents, and if we see happier residents around the place, a larger demand for people wanting to come into the facilities, they're all things that are really good indicators that we're doing the right thing.” 

What would you say to someone who is considering joining these Clinical Governance Meetings and becoming a Consumer Representative? 

“Look at the big picture. Ensure that you bring the context of your loved one to the meeting, but ensure that any questions are in the context of the broader care of all residents across all settings, the whole of Australia. It is rewarding, it is challenging, and if you do come on board as another Consumer Representative, then ensure that you're well prepared, well read, understand what's going forward. If you don't understand what's going forward, contact the convener and try and make sure that you're aware of it. Ask for additional papers on those particular areas or research them yourself. Come along as an informed representative and provide feedback to the group and input to the group with the context of your loved one, but in that broader setting.”

If you are interested in joining the Clinical Governance Meetings as a Consumer Representative, please request an application form from Julie Dymock, Acting National Manager of Clinical Governance, Quality and Risk: julie.dymock@svha.org.au.
Please note, there are limited positions available for Consumer Representatives.