Health Consumers’ Council (HCC) would like to congratulate consumer and carer representative Debra Letica, whose ongoing commitment to improving health services for all West Australians was recently recognised when the Board of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) resolved to admit her as an Honorary Fellow of the College.
Deb was a sibling carer for her brother, who was born with a brain injury, and advocated for him to get the best care he could get to help him enjoy the things that brought him joy and happiness. When she came across the opportunity to join the Rockingham Hospital Community Advisory Group as a carer representative she thought “nothing ventured, nothing gained” and put in her application.
From there, Deb joined HCC’s Introduction to Consumer Representation workshop, and then sought out opportunities to continue educating herself on everything health.
“I was pretty nervous way back in those early days. I was not confident as a public speaker, and I must say, a little wary of health professionals, mostly because my interaction as a carer had been anything but pleasant with a few of them. But my confidence grew, the more I joined in with the Rockingham General Hospital Consumer Advisory Group and sat on other committees, I learned a great deal about how the system worked. And I met some really nice people. And they changed my perspective about the health system,” Deb said.
In 2018, Deb became an inaugural member of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians Consumer Advisory Group.
“I became really interested in the training of health professionals, because I didn’t know what it took, what they had to do, to become a health professional. They’ve shared their wisdom and knowledge with me, and asked me for mine on various committees across the college. They’ve helped me present at the College Congress, which is held every year. I’ve learned an awful lot about the passion health professionals have, the commitment they have to becoming a physician or a specialist. They’re all amazing, incredible, beautiful human beings and what they do, and achieve, leaves me in total awe. It certainly has opened my eyes.”
Deb was recently on a Zoom call as part of a HCC workshop when she received an email from the President of the RACP, advising that the Board had resolved to admit her as an Honorary Fellow of the College.
“I couldn’t quite believe it! I burst into tears, but tears of joy. I’m very honoured and humbled that my volunteer work as a consumer and carer has been recognised in this way. And it’s commendable that the RACP so highly value consumers and carers voices in the training of the physicians and specialists of the future. I think this recognition is having a really positive effect, not only for me, but for many of my consumer and carer colleagues and friends across Australia. It certainly sets the bar for the value and the recognition of our consumer voices.
The fellowship is a very clear example of the value that is placed on consumers and carers lived experience voices. And I know that we have healthcare rights, and we have the national standards, but we have to go beyond that to be kind and seek opportunities to understand how it is for other people working in the system.
I think everyone has a story that can add value, so that we can all learn from and make the system better for the next generation. By this I mean to also include the stories of those working in the system, and how we can work together to improve the system. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if somehow we can create a platform to share our stories, and by that, I mean, all of us, those of us using the system, and those of us working in the system. I really think this would change our hearts and minds and give us a deeper understanding of how things are in each other’s world.
One of the important things for me, is that as consumers, we have to be brave to listen to others, to the stories of those working in the system. Because we are in this together. And we have to be on the same boat rowing the same way.
I strongly think that we need to encourage and support others to be brave enough to get involved. We need to have a more diverse group of people, more diverse voices, sharing their stories – and support from places likes HCC to help everyday people like me to have the courage to be brave enough to take on these opportunities.”
On behalf of all the team at HCC, congratulations Deb – this honour is so deeply deserved. Thank you for your passion and dedication to speaking up for the importance of a kind, patient-centred health care system.