Being For Others

Calvary Health Care ACT

In this era of modern medicine, the power of God and faith is still a tremendous source of healing and strength for many people. Little Company of Mary Health Care, known as Calvary, is a mission-led, not-for-profit organisation carrying on the tradition of compassionate care started by the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary.

The values of hospitality, healing, stewardship and respect are at the heart of the organisation, which has four main areas of focus: community care, retirement and aged care, public and private hospitals. Calvary Health Care ACT operates the two major hospitals in the Territory while the organisation as a whole operates 15 hospitals. “We admit about 200,000 people into our hospitals every year,” says National CEO Mark Doran.

Looking after people from birth to death during some of the happiest and saddest times of their lives is what Calvary does best. “We perform about 110,000 operations and welcome around 5000 babies a year into the world, which along with our other activities makes us one of the more mixed health care providers in Australia.”

Healing Spirit
Today, Calvary employs over 10,000 people and has an annual turnover of approximately one billion dollars. Being a purpose driven charity, all funds are put back into providing care services in the communities Calvary serves. “We run hospitals, public and private hospitals, residential aged care as well as retirement living,” explains Mr Doran. “We also have a very large community arm which provides services directly in the home. Some of the community work is clinical but a lot of it is what Calvary calls ‘family substitution’ which means looking after people’s needs, whatever they might be, as a family would.”

The 9th of April this year marked the 100th anniversary of the death of Mother Mary Potter, the founder of the Little Company of Mary Sisters, who first came to Australia in 1885. It has also been 25 years since the late Pope John Paul II declared Mary Potter Venerable. “She was one of those bands of well intentioned people who went out to look after the sick and the poor, particularly those who were basically put on the scrap heap by society,” says Mr Doran. Although the staff of Calvary come from many different religious and cultural backgrounds, they are all carrying on the legacy of Mary Potter who devoted her life to doing Christ’s work. “We started way back in the UK in 1877 when Mary Potter did exactly what our Calvary Silver Circle people do today, in the city of Nottingham, which is looking after the poor and particularly looking after people toward the end of their life when they were most vulnerable.”

Mary Potter was an inspiring woman, to say the least. She started out training to be a Sister of Mercy but had to leave due to illness. The Little Company of Mary started around 1877when Mother Mary was given approval by the Pope to form her own religious order and go about doing the works of the Church. With a couple of nuns, Mary worked in the slums of Nottingham and they became known as the “Blue Nuns”, because they wore a black habit and a pale blue veil. They were called the “Blue Nuns” in Australia as well for many years and led a life of caring for the sick, the poor and the dying.

Compassionate Caring
While much has changed in the medical world since Mary Potter and her Sisters did their rounds, entering the health care system as a patient can often be a confusing and daunting process. Calvary Health Care ACT is focused on delivering more timely care and services with national priorities around healthcare, NEAT (National Emergency Access Target) and NEST (National Elective Surgery Target). “We have our program called Access Improvement where we’re actually redesigning the patient journey from the front door all the way through to discharge so we can be more timely in the way that we are able to move our patients through the organisation,” says CEO Ray Dennis. “That improves access to the front door but also improves access across the care continuum. That’s one of a number of initiatives that help to align care.”

Calvary Health Care ACT has a strong foundation of Catholic values underpinning all the work that the organisation does. In the spirit of Mary, the last person to stand by Jesus who was crucified at Mount Calvary, Mother Mary Potter and her Sisters cared for the sick as they were taking their last breath. “They really wanted to go out and look at how they could support people particularly during their most vulnerable time, when they were dying,” explains National CEO Mr Doran. To this end, Calvary Health Care ACT specialises in end of life and palliative care, providing patients and their families with hospice and home based care and support at a difficult time.

Clare Holland House is a peaceful place and a key provider of specialist Palliative Care across the ACT and the surrounding region. “It is definitely core to the mission of Calvary and we are the tertiary provider of palliative care services here in the Territory,” comments Mr Dennis. “It’s definitely and unfortunately an emerging area but it’s not just about palliative care; it’s about end of life care.”

Calvary Health Care ACT aims to make patients during the later phase of their life and in their final moments as comfortable as possible with a range of care and support options that preserve a patient’s dignity and offer quality of life. “Now what has changed is we once focused more on the palliative end where our strategy today is based more around looking at the end of life period, those last 12 months or so.” When Calvary Health Care ACT recognises that someone has entered the end of life period, “we make sure that their wishes are listened to, documented and finalised and acted upon,” which makes what is happening easier on everyone.

God’s Work
While death and dying can be hard to talk about, it’s safe to say that most people want to have a dignified and peaceful end after a long, happy life. “It’s not always best to attempt to ‘save’ a person,” according to Mr Doran who goes on to say that in many situations it can be a futile exercise that ultimately robs the patient of the ending they would have wanted. “Most of us want to die at home; sometimes it’s easier said than done. However, if we know early enough and are realistic enough about what is happening (and most people are) then there is a way to plan and understand what is happening through a lot of partnerships – because again, there are a lot of people involved.” Calvary Health Care works with other partners in assuring that the model of End of Life and Palliative Care is the best that a community can provide.

People are living longer and with Australia’s ageing population, there are greater numbers of elderly people living with chronic diseases. One of the challenges now and in the years ahead will be meeting the rising demand from communities for healthcare services as the cost of care rises. In the ACT Mr Dennis believes that it will not be long before healthcare could consume the whole of the government’s budget in every jurisdiction, leaving no money for education and other services. “It’s about being able to look at what we do and how we do it and finding more effective and efficient ways to deliver while still making sure that we provide appropriate, individualised care to patients.”

People, rich and poor, are always going to need healthcare services and Calvary wants to ensure that no one misses out. “We’re very committed to providing care to the people who need it and not just the general population. We have a bias to the poor and vulnerable to provide care and support to them.” Calvary Health Care ACT is going to continue carrying on Mary Potter’s legacy of being for others for many years to come. “We are here for the long run. A few years ago, there was a significant negotiation with the Territory government that has given us an enduring agreement to provide the services here in Canberra. The government is committing to continue investing in Calvary Public Hospital. There are plans for a co-located private hospital so the future’s very bright as far as Calvary Health Care ACT is concerned.”

Mary Potter and her original group of Sisters would have been astounded to see what their work in the slums, caring for the sick and the poor, would later inspire people to do. Calvary Health Care ACT is still ‘being for others’ and humbly following in the footsteps of the Sisters.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

September 26, 2018, 9:59 AM AEST