3. Engagement with Nova Scotians

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Diane Govindsamy, a mother of four who immigrated to Canada 16 years ago from South Africa, speaks as a user of the health system. She is also a health support lead for the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children Restorative Inquiry. Pat Gates brings the perspective of a single senior who has lived with type-1 diabetes for 54 years. She is actively involved with a variety of organizations relating to disabilities as Gates herself is almost completely blind and lives with other disabilities. What Govindsamy and Gates share, along with the other members of Nova Scotia Health Authority’s Patient Family Public Advisory Council, is a desire to help shape a stronger health system for all Nova Scotians.

Nova Scotia Health Authority’s Patient Family Public Advisory Council came together in October 2016 after a provincial call for expressions of interest for 12 community-minded individuals across the province. Council’s role is to help ensure NSHA brings “a patient and family voice to advance patient-/family-centred care and patient engagement throughout the province.” The group meets monthly to provide input and advise on policies, practices, planning and delivery of services.

The council has heard presentations from a number of groups, including mental health and addictions, cancer care, primary health care, pathology and laboratory medicine and policy and planning (acute medicine services). In response, council members have asked questions and provided feedback to help ensure the organization is keeping the needs of those we serve at the centre of our planning and work.

“We’re pointing out things to them that they may not have realized,” Gates says. “We’re bringing our experience in community.”

Govindsamy says that while each council member brings his or her personal experience, it’s not about advancing any one group’s agenda. “The group is genuine and committed – not as advocates of a specific community – but as a whole. We have capacity to be that first-voice resource but also to be community ambassadors.”

Gates and Govindsamy are encouraged that the health system is seeking the voices of its users to inform change. “Hopefully the outcome will be a health care system that will make all Nova Scotians proud,” says Gates.