February eNews – No longer fit for purpose

No longer fit for purpose.

Last Sunday I woke early and with two others walked the beach at Torquay to watch the sun rise. What really captured me was that it became a shared experience as walkers, swimmers, surfers and those who had driven to viewing points along the beach, all paused, and watched that moment as the sun first revealed itself over a long band of misty clouds. It was at the same time such an ordinary and extraordinary experience. A moment of shared beauty and gratitude that welcomed another day.

Life is full of these moments, those experiences that are so very ordinary and yet extraordinary. I think of birth, friendships, birthdays, marriages, heartbreak, illness, death…. These are the ordinary things of life and yet have the potential to impact us personally and take on an aspect of being extraordinary in our lives. They offer opportunities to experience so much – joy, love, fear, pain, grief… – and they can shape our sense of who we are, why we are here and where (to whom) we belong. This is the very heart of what we name spirituality, those things that are sources of meaning, purpose and connection. That simple experience of a shared sunrise connected me once again with what is at the core of the work we do at SHA. Raising awareness of this integral dimension of our lives, the breadth of spiritual experience, and the need for spirituality to be a part of our healthcare.

There has been much in the media over the past months about the need for reform in the health sector. Much of the focus has been on the Medicare system, which last month was described by the Minister for Health, Mark Butler, as ‘no longer fit for purpose’. He proposed that a new model is needed that also funds nurses and allied health practitioners working in teams delivering complex care. As has been demonstrated through the programs initiated in the UK, spiritual care practitioners can make a valued contribution as part of this multi-disciplinary team. In our January budget submission to federal Treasury, SHA has proposed that the government fund a pilot project to place spiritual care practitioners into GP clinics. Once again we are seeking to raise awareness of the spiritual domain as an integral part of holistic healthcare.

Our submission also requests funding to pilot and evaluate the co-designed national model for spiritual care in health. The national model will be finalised in the coming month. This co-design project is significant for the spiritual care sector as it arose from the growing recognition of the risk to safety and quality of spiritual care caused by inconsistent models of practice and provision. It was our own “no longer fit for purpose” moment that became the impetus for change. It is our hope that as we work with services to implement this model, due recognition and investment will be given to spiritual care to ensure that peoples’ ordinary and extraordinary moments of life become sources of meaning, purpose and connection. What better way to support the health and wellbeing of patients, families and staff. 

Cheryl Holmes, CEO

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