Organisations in Focus
Coomealla Health Aboriginal Corporation
Coomealla Health Aboriginal Corporation (CHAC) is an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (ACCHO) based in Dareton, far south west New South Wales. CHAC serves the Aboriginal communities of Wentworth, Dareton, Buronga, Gol Gol and Balranald with comprehensive primary health care services focused on preventing and addressing their five key priority areas: diabetes, asthma, heart disease, mental health/drug and alcohol, and maternal, child and family services.
In 2017 CHAC delivered 16,183 episodes of care to 1,193 clients. These services were delivered by a multidisciplinary clinical team including Aboriginal Health Practitioners, General Practitioner, Endorsed Enrolled Nurse, Counsellor, Dietitian, Midwife, Credentialed Diabetes Educator, and Podiatrist. CHAC also deliver non-clinical health promotion and community development activities designed at improving the lives of those within their community.
In 2017 CHAC successfully achieved their first round of QIP accreditation against the QIC Health and Community Services Standards 7th Edition; they are also currently in their fourth cycle of AGPAL accreditation. With a holistic approach to primary health care, CHAC offers clients a range of services focused on the delivery of care plans which are developed in collaboration with each individual.
“We try to encourage clients to have a Flinders Chronic Disease Care Plan or a GP Management Plan done up, for example, where the Aboriginal Health Practitioner or Endorsed Enrolled Nurse will work with the client to fill out the plan, identify their own health goals then look at how CHAC can help them address those goals,” said CHAC Deputy CEO Summer Hunt. “Clients are then supported to follow up on how they are going against those goals with the help of the Aboriginal Health Practitioner.
“These plans are also a catalyst for the entire CHAC team to wrap around the client and work together to address their needs. Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation’s (ACCHO’s) were the first primary health care organisations to embrace truly multi-disciplinary care models in the Australian health system which is critical to better health outcomes,” Summer said.
As an ACCHO, CHAC plays a unique role in Australia’s health system and believes that people are responsible for their own health but need the support, assistance and information from an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service.
“We recognise that ACCHO’s have a dual role of not only providing health services but of helping and educating our people to live better, healthier lives,” said Summer.
“We also recognise that we need to advocate for, and fight to address, social and economic determinants of health that have resulted in the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. This could mean tackling big issues like helping to lobby for a treaty with Aboriginal people right through to individual supports like working with community services in helping our patients to find employment or access housing and Centrelink.”
After undertaking four cycles of AGPAL accreditation, CHAC is no stranger to the benefits of accreditation in developing community confidence for an organisation, which was why they decided to also undertake accreditation against the new QIC Standards 7th Edition.
“CHAC has been an AGPAL accredited clinic for many years but the Board of Directors wanted to ensure that the community could be confident in the organisation,” said Summer. ”We want the community to have confidence that CHAC is not just compliant as a clinic, but is committed to, and working towards, best practice in how we run the entire organisation and how we manage our business.
“ACCHOs have a large body of responsibility not just to our community but to government and funding bodies to demonstrate that our business practices are reliable, responsible and responsive. Having a third party external assessment process against the QIC Health and Community Services Standards is a perfect way to demonstrate CHAC’s commitment to proactively seeking to be the best we can be.
“Achievement of QIP accreditation against the QIC Standards also recognises that, as an ACCHO, we do much more than a mainstream General Practice in terms of non-clinical services and our business systems, and accreditation, reflect that complexity.”
While undertaking any new accreditation process can have its challenges, Summer believes the CHAC team handled the process well, largely thanks to their previous experience with AGPAL accreditation. “Having been through the AGPAL process meant that our Quality and Compliance Officer, Steve Parr, was already familiar with the self-assessment process and the use of AccreditationPro. This made the process of implementing change somewhat easier because the systems were the same. Staff were also able to identify how changes as a result of the QIC framework requirements were going to make their life easier,” Summer said.
“The best part about the process was that it gave us the opportunity as an organisation to build our commitment to good quality in all our systems and processes rather than just identifying gaps in what we do. We found the process of self-assessment was a really good tool to get the whole team involved and served to build that commitment to good quality with the entire staff.
“One of the highlights of this process was how the entire CHAC team embraced the changes that were implemented as a result of our accreditation journey.
Throughout the accreditation process, Steve worked with individual staff on their relevant work areas to ensure compliance and to build in quality systems and processes.
He then reported directly to the CHAC Management Committee and the Board of Directors on progress against the self-assessment, which saw our team undertake two self-assessments prior to the actual assessment to ensure we were prepared.
“As our AGPAL accreditation now falls on an alternate year to our QIP accreditation, we are able to manage them both seamlessly. Having multi-accreditation has also allowed us to identify which particular policies and procedures relate to which set of standards, and these are progressively being listed in each policy and procedure.”
Summer’s tips for other community organisations preparing to undertake accreditation are simple – don’t panic and be honest about where the organisation “is at”.
“If I could give other community organisations advice, it would be not to panic, and be honest and frank with yourselves and with your assessors as to where you are “at” on your improvement journey. We really like the fact that the process takes a strengths based approach and focuses not so much on yes/no compliance but more on aspirations and the journey that the organisation is on.”