Australia’s Health System in context | “Nursing the World to Health”
Australia’s Health System in context
“Nursing the World to Health” | A prophetic slogan – and more
In a press release dated 24 October 2019, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) announced the theme for International Nurses Day 2020 stating:
“ICN’s theme for International Nurses Day 2020 is Nursing the World to
Health, focusing on the true value of nurses to the people of the world”.
How incredible was it, that just a month later, on 17th November 2019, the earliest case of Covid-19 was recorded in the China Government’s records. (as reported in the South China Morning Post much later).
Florence Nightingale: a pioneer of hand washing and hygiene for health - and no stranger to pandemics
This week as we celebrated International Nurses Day 2020 on May 12th, many of us were also aware that it coincided with the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, who is known as the founder of modern nursing. As Australia’s Chief Nursing Officer Alison McMillan said recently, “Florence Nightingale’s pioneering work was born out of the crisis of war. And so it is today that nurses around the world and in Australia are once again on the frontline and in a war – this time against the coronavirus, named Covid-19”.
Florence found that more soldiers were dying of diseases such as typhus, typhoid, cholera and dysentery than from their battle wounds, and the hospital wards were filthy and overcrowded with rat and lice infestations. She brought in sanitation and hygiene measures including frequent hand washing with soap and water, which was not commonplace at the time.
She radically reformed professional nursing and public health policy and practice, as a result of the her experience and observations of the horrors of the Crimean war. She became famous and beloved as “the lady with the lamp” but she was also a social reformer, advocate, policy influencer, and statistician. She understood the influential role of statistics and how to present them visually, and she used them to support her findings, views, and recommendations in terms of social, military and health policies.
In praise of today’s nurses
We know that nurses are the backbone of any health care system, and even its heart and soul. The COVID-19 pandemic is testing all of us in many ways, but nurses in large numbers are the ones on the very front lines. They can’t work from home! They look after people from birth to death. Around the world, nurses have been, and still are, often there ‘til the end with a dying patient, due to the circumstances. They're also the ones doing the screenings and testings, implementing triage protocols, taking care of the critically ill, and communicating with families. They're being asked to work in areas of the hospital that aren't their normal specialty. They're providing telehealth consultations (something new to many health care professionals). They're being re-deployed to learn new skills and take new roles. And they’re stepping up to the plate! Florence would be so proud of what nurses have managed to achieve and continue to do, during this pandemic - nursing the world to health.
As at the end of March 2020, there were 388,435 registered professional nurses in Australia. By far the majority were Registered Nurses (RNs) (314,412), and a much smaller proportion were Enrolled Nurses (ENs) or dual qualified EN/RNs. Most nurses work in the hospital system, however a recent report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare stated that 82,000 nurses worked outside of the hospital system. Regardless of where nurses are presently working, they are all currently working against Covid-19.
We’re still the lucky country!
Australia’s health care system is one of the best in the world, providing safe and affordable health care for all Australians. There is responsibility for health care at all levels of the Australian government – federal, state and territory, and local.
The whole system at all the levels is certainly being stretched currently, due to the need to keep up with changing circumstances and government edicts, the need for almost a complete revision/re-think of all procedures, a rearrangement of priorities and staffing, and preparing for the reception and management of patients with Covid-19.
There are a range of new “pop-up” clinics for assessment and screening, such as special GP respiratory clinics, temporary screening units set up in the grounds of hospitals, and even drive-through screening clinics. Each state government website will have a comprehensive list of these clinics, and you can ring the call National Coronavirus Helpline 1800 020 080 if need be.
The Federal State governments have had pandemic plans in place for years, prepared for the possibility of a new coronavirus or a wide-scale influenza outbreak. The publicly available plans emphasise that predicting the length, severity and impact of a coronavirus – such as SARS-CoV-2 – outbreak is difficult, given a large number of unknown and variable factors.
We already had the Australian Health Management Plan for Pandemic Influenza (updated in August 2019); and more recently the federal government has developed the Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) to guide the health system’s response to the current pandemic. It was last updated on April 22nd, 2020.
We are lucky to have our universal health care scheme, Medicare, which underpins our health care system. It covers all of the cost of public hospital services, for everyone. (largely citizens and permanent residents).
It may also cover some or all of the costs of other health services, for example some physiotherapy, psychology services, community nurses and basic dental services for children. In response to Covid-19 Medicare has provided new item numbers to enable telehealth (online) consultations to be claimed.
Many Australians choose to have private health insurance. When you need health care, you can access it through one of the two systems, or a mix of both.
Other programs, such as Aged Care, Home Care, Veteran’s Affairs and the National Disability Insurance Scheme, overlap with the health care system in providing supports and services to eligible people. Gong Life Care Solutions has written several posts on these programs in the past.
General Practice is often the first port of call when we are sick in Australia. Despite the title - General Practitioner - Australia's family doctors are really specialists in their own right. A GP is trained to treat the whole person and to care for people of all ages, all walks of life, and with all types of medical issues and concerns. GPs are in private practice, and there is a large network of GPs across Australia. GPs are using telehealth options where required, and the Australian Government is establishing GP respiratory clinics around the country to clinically assess people with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms (a fever, cough, shortness of breath, a sore throat and/or tiredness). Check the federal Department of Health website for locations. https://www.health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/coronavirus-covid-19-gp-respiratory-clinics
The Hospital System
Much attention is on our hospital system at the moment, including the Covid-19 testing clinics, emergency departments and intensive care units. Hospital services in Australia are provided by both the public and private sectors. Public hospitals are owned and managed by state and territory governments. Medicare provides access to free treatment and accommodation in a public hospital for Australian residents and overseas visitors from countries with a reciprocal arrangement.
If you have private health insurance, you get some funding to cover the costs of care in a private hospital. You can choose to use a public hospital, although you will be charged for it. Your private health insurance will cover some of the costs.
As we stated above, hospitals, as part of the whole health care system, are extremely busy responding to Covid-19.
Gong Life Care Solutions
The team at Gong Life Care Solutions have worked in the aged care, health and the disability sectors for many years, and understand the respect and care required to meet the individual needs of clients in the community we are serving.
As stated above in this post, the main focus of Gong Life Care Solutions is the provision of unique, quality equipment, which is designed with both users and carers in mind. Equipment that is required for health care, independence at home, mobility, quality of life, or assistive technology, is generally not supplied directly by hospitals or doctors. However, there are several government programs which fund needed equipment for those eligible under the specific programs. Please see our recent posts for information on particular programs.
We specifically cater to the Home, Aged and Disability Care Sectors; providing innovative products from International manufacturers. Some examples include our LASAL Embracer medical chair cushion for comfort and support for people who need to sit for long periods of time; our Relaxa bath lift, to assist those who can no longer get in or out of the bath so easily; and our comfortable KMINA adjusting elbow crutches.
Gong Life Care Solutions is a Registered NDIS Provider.
We are a responsible local business based in Wollongong, New South Wales. We provide rehab supplies and safety and mobility equipment to the whole of Australia, and we deliver free anywhere in Australia.
- Press release of the International Council of Nurses, dated 24th October 2019 https://www.icn.ch/news/nursing-world-health-icn-announces-theme-international-nurses-day-2020
- Article in The Guardian by Helen Davidson 13th March 2020, reporting on South China Morning Post article by Josephine Ma, 13th March 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/13/first-covid-19-case-happened-in-november-china-government-records-show-report
- Alison McMillan, Opinion piece, 11th April 2020. https://www.health.gov.au/news/nations-nurses-on-the-covid-19-frontline
- Australian Healthcare Practitioners Registration Agency, Nursing and Midwifery Board statistical table 31st March 2020. https://www.nursingmidwiferyboard.gov.au/About/Statistics.aspx
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report, A profile of primary health care nurses https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/primary-health-care/a-profile-of-primary-care-nurses/contents/primary-health-care-nurses
- Australian Health Management Plan for Pandemic Influenza https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/ohp-ahmppi.htm
- Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/australian-health-sector-emergency-response-plan-for-novel-coronavirus-covid-19
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