Ministerial Advisory Council on Disability - Independent adviser to the WA Minister for Disability Services - Keeping government informed

Sharing Healthy Conversations lead to strong conclusions

Date: 23 August 2012

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Significant discussions took place yesterday at the Sharing Healthy Conversations public consultation, concerning the importance of effective communication practices between individuals with a disability, carers and health professionals.

Members of the public who have personal experiences with disability, specialists and council members were invited to share their thoughts on Wednesday at the Boulevard Hall in Floreat.

The aim of the partnership between the Ministerial Advisory Council on Disability and the Carers’ Advisory Council was to hear first-hand about the issues that impact the lives of people with disability, their families and their carers.

The Minister for Disability Services and guest speaker Hon Helen Morton MLC said she commends everyone for a wonderful initiative and looks forward to an important report.

She said the people attending the consultation would ensure that people with a disability get a fair go like anyone else in Australia.

"People with a disability and those with mental illness sometimes experience other issues as well because they are not heard properly by their health professionals. They cannot get their message across or communicate effectively and this is why today is so important in striving for improvement,” the Minister said.

Personal stories were shared and opportunities to use art and drawing to express concerns were welcomed in group discussions as facilitators covered four topics including; Information Flow between People, Effective Communication, Sharing Expertise as well as Confidentiality and Privacy.

Ministerial Advisory Council on Disability Chairperson Samantha Jenkinson shared her personal story as a person with a disability and what she has learnt from her experiences with health professionals.

Ms Jenkinson said patients should go prepared with questions to ask their GP or specialists so nothing is left unanswered when leaving an appointment.

If something is complex then it pays to take a person you trust with you, however it is important to realise that any decision is yours in the end. It is also okay to do your own research on your disability, your health or any medical conditions but make sure you confirm your findings with your GP,” Ms Jenkinson said.

Carers Advisory Council Deputy Chairperson and guest speaker Kristine McConnell has extensive experience in community services throughout WA specialising in mental health as well as Culturally and Linguistically Diverse communities.

She has also been a carer of family members for over 14 years.

Ms McConnell said it is important that each person knows what his or her rights are.

“My very first GP said that I am the expert when it comes to my health and body. I know what I am feeling and therefore a doctor cannot help me unless I communicate,” she said.

Sharing Healthy Conversations demonstrated how important it is that all voices are heard when planning and organising medical assessments and treatments.

Intensive Care Specialist at Royal Perth Hospital and past president of the Australian Medical Association WA Dr Simon Towler said his role was somewhat different to that of the carers and people with a disability.

“I am involved in stories where people are fine one day and the next they’ve got a life long disability. It is fascinating to see how people cope with these situations, how they develop around those with disabilities and how the community can help,” Dr Towler said.

He said the system needed to change to be able to adapt to the needs of the patient first rather than the needs of the provider.

“I think you are all amazingly important and courageous for being a part of this consultation. The information and thoughts that you share today are so important.”

The results from Sharing Healthy Conversations will be collated and analysed to find common themes, which will inform future policies, procedures and education initiatives.