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Ombudswomen: every experience counts for better quality

The experiences of parents and children are important information for the Princess Máxima Center. What do they think of our work? Is the service well-tailored and is the communication satisfactory? Or do you run up against things that could be improved? Parents and children can appeal to their treatment team about this. But also to the ombudswomen. What have they been able to do for parents and children since their appointment?

Ombudswomen Elise Steenbergen and Liesbeth Smulders have been in office for eighteen months. In a previous interview, they explained what parents and children can contact them for. Short and sweet: for a listening ear. And for suggestions, tips for improvement, a complaint or a compliment. Elise says, “Parents now know where to find us. I notice that they like to be able to speak openly when something is bothering them. Parents sometimes say that they are very satisfied and that this is precisely why they find it difficult to identify what is not going well. They then feel as if they are letting the care professionals down. To us they can vent their feelings and discuss what else they can do.”

Talking about it helps
Liesbeth recognizes this very well. “By talking about something and bringing it up with those directly involved through our mediation, you can prevent something from growing out of proportion. This prevents dissatisfaction from escalating into conflict.” It is also important that a complaint or signal leads to improvement, the ombudswomen believe. For example, it is unpleasant for parents and child if they have to wait a long time for a part of the treatment. Especially if it happens frequently. Liesbeth says, “When a father came to us with this problem, we worked with the care professional involved to find out what went wrong. By improving certain processes, the waiting became much more manageable. Result: everyone happy and a sustained improvement that also benefits other parents and children.”

Working together on quality
Elise says that working on quality is something you do together. Parents realize that too. “They often say they'd rather not 'complain'. But they do want to share their experiences because they want to improve something at the Máxima Center. Parents regularly offer to help.” Liesbeth says, “Parents also say that they're not doing it just for themselves and their child, but for all the parents and children after them. That is one of the reasons why they would like to hear how their signal or complaint has been followed up. We always get back to them to talk about that two weeks after the last contact.”

Peace and attention
The findings of the ombudswomen do not only reach the Máxima Center through reports. They are also exchanged with the Children's Advisory Council, the Client Council and the Netherlands Childhood Cancer Association. Elise and Liesbeth especially want to continue emphasizing what they stand for at the Máxima Center. Liesbeth says, “You can always come to us, we take all the time you need. Peace and attention, that's our strength.” Elise agrees with her colleague. “And very importantly, we don't judge. We do not take sides, but we mediate and get people into dialogue. That's how you get further together.”

More information
The ombudswomen are Elise Steenbergen and Liesbeth Smulders. They have an office at the LATER outpatient clinic (opposite the coffee corner on the ground floor) and are normally present on weekdays. You can just walk in, but you can also make an appointment so you do not find no-one in. They can be reached at 06-50006416 or ombudsvrouw@prinsesmaximacentrum.nl. The ombudswomen are there for parents and children and for adults who come to the LATER outpatient clinic. The ombudswomen are independent and have a duty of confidentiality. This means that they will only talk to others about your complaints and signals if you give them permission to do so. Check the website for more information (including a leaflet).