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Sharon’s mission for greater community care

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Launching a home-based palliative care service in the next 12 months is just one of the exciting initiatives on the very long ‘to do’ list for Calvary North Adelaide Hospital’s new CEO Sharon Kendall.

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The proposed service is part of Calvary’s vision to further extend its reach into the community to meet the changing needs and expectations of health care. Planning is currently underway to establish a team of palliative care nurse practitioners who – with the support of Mary Potter Hospice and local GPs – will care for terminally ill patients in their homes.

“A lot of people want to be in their home and to deliver that care for them in their preferred place, that’s the dream for us,” Ms Kendall told The Southern Cross during a break in her busy schedule.

“This model draws on successful initiatives that have been implemented internationally and in some other parts of Australia, but this is unique for South Australia.”

Ms Kendall said it was hoped the service would be operational by the end of the year and commended the Mary Potter Foundation, which receives great support from the Catholic community, for its seed funding for the venture.

Taking up the CEO position earlier this year, Ms Kendall said building works and “refreshing” some of the patient amenities at the hospital were also high on the list of priorities.

“The changing face of health care is driving the need for new projects and innovations that we have to get done,” she said.

“Health care is changing. People are reassessing their levels of private health insurance and in some cases getting out of it altogether. What that means for Calvary, is that our patients are less and less reliant on health insurance and we are putting our best selves forward to continue to meet their health needs.

“That means we are going to look for more ways to be of more service in, and to, the community. Calvary already has an impressive range of services including Calvary babies, Mary Potter care, acute cancer surgical services, day oncology, haematology, chemotherapy, Calvary community care and Calvary retirement communities. This gives us an extraordinary wide-ranging base to address changing patient needs for more choices of care, more convenience and greater accessibility and affordability.”

However, she stressed that any changes under her watch would embrace the charism instilled by the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary, who have been a presence at the hospital since 1900.

Born in Ireland, Ms Kendall said her Catholic faith was an “important” part of her life, perhaps in part due to the efforts of her mother when the family migrated to Australia.

“We settled initially in Elizabeth and went to Elizabeth Vale Primary and because it wasn’t a faith-based school, my mother sent us to religious instruction lessons three times a week.

“Then we moved to the Hills to Birdwood and went to Birdwood High and we continued religious instruction (at the local parish), but only twice a week.”

She said her faith played a significant part in her early career as a nurse at Lyell McEwin Hospital.

“It was an extraordinary privilege to be in nursing, when you care for people when they are at their most vulnerable. Not many people get to experience that.

“I would like to think people would say that I was always kind and respectful in those interactions. My faith gave me support through some of those challenging times.”

Always keen to take up new opportunities, Ms Kendall moved into hospital administration at a time when the public health sector’s funding models were changing.

“They were introducing different ways of funding and resource allocation in that space and as a nurse, I wanted a seat at that table.

“I understood the industry and the clinical aspects of our service and I discovered that I have a penchant for numbers.

“I went into the administrative field with a profound sense of care and commitment to patient safety and quality, and people as well. You put the numbers at the end, because if you put them at the front you forget there is a patient or a person involved.”

She remained in the public sector for 18 years during which she completed an MBA at the University of Adelaide. In the early 2000s Ms Kendall moved into the private sector, working at St Andrews Hospital for many years and then took over as CEO at Calvary Central Districts.

Family commitments saw her undertake consultancy work for a while and then she put her hat in the ring for the top job at North Adelaide.

“I feel really blessed. I always wanted to come here because it’s Calvary’s foundation heritage site and it’s extraordinary… there are Calvary babies and Mary Potter hospice and that connection to mission and caring for the frail and vulnerable and end stage of life is really important.

“One thing that is so important coming back to Calvary is that I can actually support and lead a team who are really profoundly connected to mission and values – it aligns very strongly with me.”

 

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