Gold Coast Ostomy Association
On behalf of the Gold Coast Ostomy Association members and Executive, I am happy to provide the President’s Report on the activities carried out by our Association for 2023.
Another year has passed, and there have been plenty of challenges for the Association with changes to the Stoma Assistance Scheme (SAS), the retirement of our STN Elaine Lambie, and the work of the Executive Committee (which consists of Rod Pickett (President) Patricia Chappel (Vice President) Melanie Clemente (Secretary) Peter Lopez (Treasurer). We also had some changes to our volunteer staff with several of our volunteers stepping back or taking a break from the Association and volunteers slowly caming forward to replace them.
Our membership continues to fluctuate around 1000, with the number of new members slowing compared to the number of members being reversed, passing away or moving onto different Associations.
We are well aware of the impact that this challenging period imposed on all aspects of our lives.
At the beginning of 2021 the Association found itself having to make important and sometimes unpopular decisions to keep our members and volunteers safe, whilst striving to maintain the ability to fill all monthly orders without disruption. COVID is still around, but at present it is having very little interruption on our day-to-day work at the Association. We are back to normal and we thank the majority of our members for their support and understanding of the decisions that were necessary to facilitate our service under the COVID 19 Government guidelines.
Changes to Your Stoma Appliance Scheme
Services Australia, under Medicare, is now processing all member claims for monthly orders. This claims submission process has more accountability for us as an Association to accommodate. All claims are now done electronically through a HPOS and PRODA system online. Our Appliance Officer Melanie, and Association Manager Terri, have registered to use this system after a lengthy identification process. They have been able to navigate this process and have successfully created a seamless claims process that satisfies the Medicare criteria. Going forward the Association will require more information from our members for your SAS orders to meet this criteria. Procuring this information and upgrading to a new ordering system with SAMS will undoubtedly present extra challenges for those who will be involved within the Association. With the Stoma Appliance Scheme (SAS) adjustments, new computer programme changes, and many of the over 3000 products available on the SAS scheme being deleted or replaced, as well as delays in supply during the year, at times it has been difficult for our members when ordering, and for us when trying to provide suitable substitute products when some items were unavailable. Information from our Stoma Therapy Nurses has been vital in giving us instruction on what products we could use to assist our members in these instances.
Lease/Building Maintenance Program
To satisfy the conditions regarding our lease agreement, the Association must meet the Gold Coast City Council criteria in providing continuing building and property maintenance. To meet this criteria, an extensive building inspection was carried out by Independent Building Inspections (IBI), who found a major concern with the steel supports for our building. An engineering design for new supports was obtained and tenders were called. The repair work of replacing 64 support posts under the building was successfully carried out by JJH Construction Building Contractors during 2020. We have upgraded the ramp and verandah to the necessary guidelines during 2021 and carried out building maintenance during 2022. All identified maintenance issues have now been completed, and we will continue to monitor all maintenance requirements going forward. This year we have laid new tiles in the STN’s room, kitchen and toilets and improved the garden maintenance.
This year we have had a turnover of some of our long term volunteers and some taking on new roles within the Association. Those who had to learn new procedures have taken to the challenges with enthusiasm and have had great success. Our volunteers have brought a valued work ethic and positive attitude to the Association to keep a well-balanced and happy working environment.
All volunteer staff have embraced the responsibility of the COVID 19 restrictions placed on them to secure a safe working environment for themselves and maintaining a consistent support for our members. This sometimes meant a higher volume of phone interactions and workload, which although added extra workload and stress to our volunteers, they managed this with their usual enthusiastic attitude and professionalism. The Executive Committee would like to praise all the GCOA volunteers for their loyalty to the Association and their hard work for our members.
At this point I would like to stress that any abuse to our volunteers, either on the phone or at the front counter, will not be tolerated and corrective action will be taken against those members, or their representatives who engage in this behaviour. Our volunteers do their best to assist our members at all times and do not need to be subjected to abuse.
Australia Post reviewed their postal charges during the past year and placed an increase on their service, which ultimately put up our postal costs as well. While we were able to absorb some of the increase, at this stage we have had to put up our one month postal cost to $18, but were able to keep our two month postal cost the same at $25.
Stomal Therapy Clinics
I would like to thank Elaine Lambie for all the time she has spent as an STN at our Association looking after the members over many years. Elaine started with the Association early 2000 as a volunteer and eventually took on the role as the STN until retiring mid-way through this year. At present we have two new STN’s, Pat Wells and Sheryl Waye, who work on Tuesdays and Thursdays respectively from 10:00 to 2:00. The STNs are kept very busy as their service is invaluable and well utilised by our members every week.
To finish all I can say regarding 2023 is thank you for the patience of our members during this challenging period. At this point I am standing down as President, however, I will be staying on as a volunteer and am looking forward to working for the new President and I would like to thank all the staff for their support over the last five years