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  • Marika Kontellis

“Thank God I Got Sick in this Country”

In all the reform madness and “busyness” in health social care we are often focussed on what doesn’t work. We spend our energy on reforming, changing, positioning the faults of the “system” and sharing stories of inequity and poor practice. We are fixated on compliance and standards in the event something may happen to put a person at risk – or the organisation at risk.

Of course things can be improved. Of course there are issues with our health and care system. Of course we should never stop focussing on doing things better and fairer. But we should stop and smell the roses and acknowledge our world class health and social care system. It took my 48 year old cousin, Alec, living with the impacts of his “15 year old MS” to remind me. Despite his sometimes difficult journey through the Victorian and more recently NSW health and care system he is okay. He recently said to me, “Cuz , thank God I got sick in this country” .

Alec was living in Victoria but as his MS progressed he had a fall and was admitted to hospital. This landed him in an aged care rehabilitation ward for 6 months. Living in limbo. No place to live and limited insight into his needs. The family, with Alec’s consent agreed to move him to Sydney to work on linking him with the NDIS and securing appropriate accommodation. This was a long arduous process and Alec’s physical and mental wellbeing deteriorated in that residential facility. Truth be known, my own health deteriorated every time I visited. An unfortunate set of circumstances placed Alec at risk of physical abuse so we took a chance and moved him to a respite facility for a week. That arrangement broke down 24 hours later and he was rushed the emergency department of Westmead. What was noteworthy however is how the system wrapped around Alec and the family to find a solution. Sure I used every bit of advocacy skill I had, but the health team, the ADHC team, his community care providers, all focussed on finding the solution.

Alec is now an NDIS participant. He is living with a few other people in a beautiful home, receiving a load of care and support. It’s not always great and it’s not always easy but as he says, “Thank God I Got Sick in this Country”

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