February 12, 2020

Jenefer Williams on how consumers can make a change

Five years ago, Jenefer Williams’ mother had a stroke and was treated at a Melbourne hospital. Jenefer’s personal experience of trying to access quality care for her mother, across various levels of health care, was her main motivation to get involved in health care as a consumer.

“Having ageing parents within the Victorian public health care system, I initially found it an intricate and often confusing place. It was frequently difficult and impossible to navigate and my family experienced many system failures that ultimately contributed to poor health outcomes,” she said.

“This was when I had a light bulb moment, and I thought that if I am struggling within a complicated system, how many more people are experiencing exactly the same thing and what can be done?” she added.

For Jenefer, the obvious answer was to work with health services to improve opportunities for consumers and community representatives to participate in quality and safety improvement activities.

When her mother received future care at Northern Health on several occasions, the ward nurse who looked after her mother was exactly how Jenefer imagined a nurse would be – caring, efficient and she seemed like a beacon of hope in trying times.

“If hospitals were football teams, this nurse would be the whole offence and defence. Vital to good patient care,” she added.

Jenefer became involved to make a change. She understands the importance of clinical knowledge, however, feels combining this with lived experience, or having the capacity or interest to take a humanistic approach to care will bring the best possible health outcomes. Now, she is involved with the PECAC (Patient Experience Consumer Advisory Committee) as well as the Family Violence Committee.

“The committees that I am privileged to sit on are platforms to provide and drive targeted change, for patients, carers and family members,” she said.

Jenefer sees health as a partnership between physical and psychological care, both needing attention for people to become and stay well.

“It is the holistic approach – the person and their condition – a person is not just their condition. I am advocating to build stronger and consistent partnerships with shared decision making. This is critical for the improvement in long term healthcare outcomes,” she said.

She loves that on the Family Violence Committee, Northern Health partners with Kilmore and District Hospital and they are an invaluable voice at the table to strengthen our overall response with the Whittlesea, Hume and Kilmore catchments.

“I was involved when Northern Health held its second family violence forum ‘Breaking through the Barriers’ which had excellent attendance from clinicians, stakeholders and the community. I am also proud to see Northern Hospital as the first Victorian hospital to install the Pink Box Dignity Vending Machine,” she said.

As a consumer, she is prepared to ask the hard questions and provide an alternate voice.

“Northern Health can do better, but we do better together, with consumers,” she said.