In the Media

Kelly Vincent – Vision Australia Interview on the Centre for Disability Health

On 11th November 2015, Dignity for Disability MLC Kelly Vincent was interviewed on Vision Australia radio station to discuss the proposed closure of the Centre for Disability Health and what the loss of the service would mean for its consumers. Here is the audio and transcript from the interview.

Pam Green: Time to welcome to 5RPH Dignity for Disability MLC, Kelly Vincent. Hi Kelly.

Kelly Vincent: Hi Pam.

Pam Green: Well Kelly you held a media conference out at the Centre for Disability Health at the Modbury Hospital today. What is the Centre for Disability Health and what do they do?

Kelly Vincent: The Centre for Disability Health is basically a centre working to close the gaps that exist in the healthcare system for many people with disabilities. So the experts there treat people whose disabilities mean they have very complex needs. For example, they treat a lot of people who communicate in other ways other than speaking and they may only be able to communicate that they have a health concern or that they’re in pain or discomfort for example by acting out if you like, or exhibiting what are known as challenging behaviours. So they might act in a way that is interpreted as physically aggressive or violent and pose a real or perceived threat or danger. So the Centre for Disability Health is a centre where people can come, have longer appointments so they can slowly go through and communicate what’s happening to themselves or the person that they’re supporting at the appointment. They’re trained in communicating with people who use alternative methods and they provide appointments with general practitioners; nursing; psychiatry for both children and adults; neurology appointments; health promotion; as well as podiatry. So it’s a really important service that without it for many people they wouldn’t be able to get holistic health care at all because of the lack of training, awareness and respect for disability in the general practitioner profession.

Pam Green: So what’s the State Government planning to do in terms of health care for people with complex disabilities and health conditions, since it seems that they’re going to be closing the Centre for Disability Health?

Kelly Vincent: That’s right, the Centre for Disability Health has been flagged for closure. It depends on who you talk to. Minister Snelling as the Minister for Health, as I understand it was on radio this morning saying that we haven’t confirmed that we’re closing it, but what we’re going to have is going to be even better. So I think that confirms that they are closing it and I have it on good authority from health professionals that the staff currently working at the centre have been told that they will be leaving and that they are to transition their current patients to other services. But that is exactly the problem that has been presented by health professionals to Dignity for Disability, Pam, is that for these clients with complex needs there is nowhere to transition to due to the lack inaccessibility of general mainstream healthcare services. Strangely, the current consumers of the service and their families where appropriate, have received a letter from the State Government stating that the centre is going to be closed due to the NDIS and its associate reforms.

Pam Green: Mmhmm

Kelly Vincent: Now this is interesting Pam, because if you speak to the National Disability Insurance Agency which is of course the agency responsible for rolling out and running the NDIS, they will tell you that the scheme is not designed to fund the needs of people with disabilities outside of their very strictly disability related needs if you like. So they will tell you that their not interested in funding things that are directly related to health or education for example. So it’s quite concerning that the State Government seems convinced that the NDIS will be able and responsible for closing this gap, and quite insulting as well I think I have to say, that there is this opinion in the Government it seems that just because you have a disability the National Disability Insurance Agency will take care of all manner of your needs, well I’m sorry but just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you can’t have healthcare needs as well.

Pam Green: And I guess if it does close, wouldn’t it be easy enough for these people to just go to their local GP or emergency department of their local hospital if the Centre does close?

Kelly Vincent: Well this is the thing Pam, because of the general inaccessibility of the general healthcare system, particularly for people who may not be able to communicate verbally and therefore might need to take more time in an appointment to explain what’s going on using other methods or they might exhibit very challenging, aggressive, violent behaviours due to the pain and discomfort that they’re in and I think to an extent that’s understandable. For example if I have a migraine for three months or a toothache for three months and no one was noticing and no one was treating me, I’d get pretty frustrated too. So the general healthcare profession currently doesn’t have a sufficient level of resourcing or training and awareness to respond respectfully and holistically to these patients. And so often what happens is, rather than looking at them holistically in terms of their healthcare, general practitioners will give the patient a sedative medication to treat the behaviour and the acting out as it often gets labelled, rather than treating the underlying cause of the behaviour. So we absolutely need a centre like the Centre for Disability Health to meet the needs of these people, to meet their healthcare needs but also the respectful, holistic human rights of people with disabilities.

Pam Green: As always Kelly, thanks so much for your time today.

Kelly Vincent: Thank you so much Pam.