When you are admitted to 3North in the Austin Hospital as a spinal patient a small army of people assemble to work with you. Apart from doctors, nurses and spinal technicians there are physiotherapists, speech pathologists, a psychologist and most importantly, a social worker.
The role of the social worker is to guide patients through to the opportunities that are available for them after their release from hospital. A good social worker is gold and we struck the mother lode with Rita.
I would have met Rita early on after my admission to 3North but my first memory of her was in February 2015. I had been discharged from hospital in mid-January and had been admitted to a facility for rehabilitation with the idea that I would be discharged from there in a few months back into a community setting.
Unfortunately, this didn’t work. I was discharged from hospital because, medically, I was okay. However, the facility I moved to could not adequately maintain the high level of care I needed because of my injuries.
So, after two weeks there, I was back in 3North. A decision was made. I would do my rehabilitation in hospital, in 3North. This was not an ideal situation. 3North is designed for acute medical care which I did not need. It is not set up for rehabilitation which I did need. In stepped Rita!
A small committee was formed, headed up by Rita. Sue, my wife, and I worked with the committee to establish a set of goals. These were my rehabilitation goals, proving I was ready to move back to community living. The goals were all practical activities like successfully catching public transport, dining out with friends, negotiating a major shopping centre and going to the movies.
Sue and I, with great encouragement from the committee, achieved all these goals in good time. This presented a dilemma though. Where to now? I still needed care 24/7. Moving back home to live with my family was not an option, either practically or financially. The Victorian Department of Health had a simple solution. Because of my age I should move to an aged care facility. Rita had other ideas!
Next time: Rita vs City Hall . . . and the winner is??