South Pacific Private Hospital has gone through a “transformative” process, and has been honoured for it with an Australian Private Hospitals Association (APHA) Award for Excellence, taking home the award for Innovation.
The organisation has achieved full Rainbow Tick Accreditation 2021, ensuring the hospital embeds LGBTQIA+ inclusive practices, providing a safe environment for anyone seeking treatment or wishing to work at South Pacific Private.
Hospital CEO, Lynne Fishwick, said she was thrilled with the Innovation award and “so proud” of her staff for going through the Rainbow Tick Accreditation.
“It challenged all of us to change our belief systems and it was transformative for our organisation,” she said.
“It’s taken us to a whole new level of who and what we are. You don’t realise that the majority of us grow up in this hetero-normative environment and how that encourages us to think in that particular way.
“This process made us realise that how we set up our systems, how we process things, how we engage with people – it really made us rethink how we did things and overcome that unconscious bias that exists.”
The voluntary Rainbow Tick Accreditation Program (through Australian General Practice Accreditation Limited) provides national recognition to organisations that meet the Rainbow Tick Standards.
It assists organisations to move from friendly to inclusive and reassures LGBTQIA+ consumers and staff that an organisation is aware of, is responsive to and is understanding of their needs.
South Pacific Private have implemented six LGBTQIA+ inclusive practice standards:
- Organisational capability
- Workforce development
- Consumer participation
- A welcoming and accessible organisation
- Disclosure and documentation
- Culturally safe and acceptable services.
Ms Fishwick said part of the reason for seeking the Rainbow Tick Accreditation, was the realisation that South Pacific Private already served the LGBTQIA+ community.
“This community is strongly represented in the people who seek treatment with us,” she said.
“A lot of what we do, our treatment focuses on addiction and complex trauma.
“We offer integrated treatment here; we treat the whole person.
“And when one thing is present, like addiction, it often means there are multiple other things present.
“So, if someone presents with symptoms, there’s an underlying developmental trauma that has occurred in those developing years and the result of that is adopting dysfunctional behaviours – people use drugs or alcohol or sex as a coping mechanism.
“Now, people in this community are often – through the process of coming out – suffering incredible trauma in their developmental years. And that can bring out other issues.
“We realised this was not always a truly safe environment and that was the rationale behind us seeking this accreditation.
“Do we get it right all the time? No, but we are committed to acknowledging our mistakes and doing things about them.”
Ms Fishwick added the accreditation has resulted in “a lot of positive feedback”.
“We’ve seen huge improvements,” she said.
“Our cultural safety officer is a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, and she’s here when people need someone to talk to, if they’re not feeling supported or represented.
“Everyone participates in the programs here and for each of our clients we provide an inclusive, open discussion.
“I think traditionally hospitals have a very old-fashioned structure and we need to think how we can change that and be more inclusive for this community.
“We have come a long way (for LGBTQIA+ rights), but there is still a long way to go. We have to ask, have we changed our behaviour?”
The judges in the APHA awards said South Pacific demonstrated a commitment to consumer engagement.
“The creation of the cultural safety officer role is a positive and essential position in this sensitive environment,” they said.
“The commitment to inclusion and continuous improvement is highly commended.”
Ms Fishwick encouraged other private hospitals to gain the Rainbow Tick Accreditation.
“It’s absolutely worth it,” she said.
“All our staff really went on a journey and the ones who were most resistant at the start, turned out to be our biggest advocates by the end.
“It was a journey of understanding, and it was close to 10 months of hard work to get there.
“Overall, it was a positive process, it was a great process, and we were all really inspired by it.”