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Seychelles' health service ‘could do more to reach out’ to patients, says expert

Victoria, Seychelles | July 20, 2016, Wednesday @ 10:54 in National » HEALTH | By: Hajira Amla and Sharon Uranie | Views: 3854
Seychelles' health service ‘could do more to reach out’ to patients, says expert

File Photo: Patient receiving services at the Seychelles hospital. The island nation has started exploring ways to implement a more people-centred care approach when its comes to healthcare. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) 

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(Seychelles News Agency) - Seychelles -- an island nation that provides free healthcare to its 93,000 inhabitants -- is slowly turning its attention to the philosophy behind the way patients are treated within the medical system.

In an interview with SNA, Dr. Angela Coulter -- a research scientist and person-centred care consultant from the United Kingdom -- says there is room for improvement for the healthcare system in Seychelles to reach out to local communities and patients.

Dr. Coulter was among four international experts brought to the 115-island archipelago in the western Indian Ocean to discuss person-centred care at a symposium for healthcare professionals organised by the ministry last weekend.

She describes the concept as “personalised, coordinated and enabling, with patients treated with dignity, compassion and respect.”

A “people-centred approach” to healthcare, while firmly entrenched in the Ministry of Health’s policy objectives and strategic frameworks, must now be translated into person-centred healthcare, said Health Minister Mitcy Larue in her opening remarks at the symposium.

But just how do you go about translating government policy into what could be termed a change in mindset among healthcare professionals?

Dr. Angela Coulter -- a research scientist and person-centred care consultant from the United Kingdom speaking at the sysposium organised by the Seychelles' Ministry of Health last week. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY-NC

More than just a buzzword

Many healthcare terms become ‘policy jargon’ and then disappear without making much of an impact, but Dr Coulter is passionate about what the person-centred care approach could bring about in healthcare across the world.

“This is a serious attempt to tackle long-standing problems in traditional healthcare which is often disempowering, inflexible and fragmented,” she told SNA. “There is plenty of international evidence that a more person-centred approach leads to more appropriate care, better health outcomes and improved value for money.”

And according to the researcher, implementing this system in an island nation with limited resources such as the Seychelles would simply require healthcare professionals and officials to listen more carefully to patients and develop better communication skills.

Dr. Coulter also said the approach would demand key changes such as the provision of clear, balanced, reliable health information, shared decision making between patients and clinicians, personalised care planning for people with chronic conditions, self-management support and a focus on building health literacy among the population.

Public involvement ‘quite limited’

Dr. Coulter is certainly not dismissive of the achievements of the Ministry of Health.

“The Seychelles health system is impressive, especially since it provides access to good quality care for the whole population,” she told SNA. “However, patient and public involvement in shaping and improving services and support for people to play an active role in their own individual care appears quite limited at present.”

“I feel the health service could do more to reach out to local people, listening to their views and inviting them to identify problems and help plan improvements. Building health literacy is also a priority to empower people to make good decisions about their health.”

Seychelles provides free healthcare to its 93,000 inhabitants although there also exists several private health care facilities. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY

Lecturing people ‘simply doesn’t work’

Although policy-makers have tried in one way or another to tackle social issues such as teenage pregnancy, child abuse, alcohol and drug abuse and mental health care, they remain some of the most serious problems affecting Seychellois society today.

Dr. Coulter believes that these issues, which all involve healthcare in some shape or form, can be better handled with the implementation of person-centred care.

“The key is to empower people to solve their own problems and provide them with appropriate support to do so,” she explained. “Old-fashioned approaches to health education that involve lecturing people about unhealthy behaviours and telling them what to do simply don't work.”

Dr Coulter indicated that person-centered care can lead to better physical and emotional health and a greater sense of confidence to self-manage their care. It can also produce much better results for patients compared to situations where doctors or nurses make all the decisions and treat patients only as passive recipients of care.

Dr. Coulter has come away from the symposium with confidence of what she called “a real commitment to move in a more person-centred direction” in Seychelles.

Going from concept to implementation, she said, and then on to results would require a long-term strategy.  

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Tags: Dr. Angela Coulter, healthcare, person-centred care, Ministry of Health, Minister Mitcy Larue

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