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CEOs update on Royal Commission Report

It’s been almost a month since the Royal Commission released its interim report titled Neglect and I thought it was time to discuss my thoughts regarding the report.

The Commissioners, the late Richard Tracey AM RFD QC and Lynelle Briggs’ AO, investigation into Australia’s aged care system led them to describe the aged care system as “a shocking tale of neglect”.

It states, “The recent interim report has found the aged care system fails to meet the needs of its older, vulnerable citizens. It does not deliver uniformly safe and quality care, is unkind and uncaring towards older people and, in too many instances, it neglects them.”

“The neglect that we have found in this Royal Commission, to date, is far from the best that can be done. Rather, it is a sad and shocking system that diminishes Australia as a nation,” said the Commissioners.

The report looked over Government action around the aged care industry, finding that in many cases the Government barely implemented recommendations suggested to them over numerous inquiries, and in some cases, didn’t respond to inquiry reports at all.

The interim report sets out the extent of the failure of Australia’s aged care services and what the Royal Commission has learned to date.

Commissioners describe in the report the many problems that older people and their families have in trying to get access to aged care services. This included service shortfalls, the dispiriting nature of residential care as well as serious substandard care and unsafe practices. It also identifies the underpaid, undervalued and insufficiently trained workforce and isolation of young people with disabilities.

As the CEO of Peninsula Villages, a position that I take very seriously, I can assure you that together with my team we endeavour to deliver the best care to our residents. I am confident that we do this well and we do this because we care.

Frankly, I do take some offence to the report’s comments that are aimed as a generalisation of our industry. The report paints a terrible picture suggesting that all providers are guilty of the same neglect as those examples that have been voiced at the Royal Commission hearings.

I wholeheartedly believe that there are shortfalls in our industry, but it is truly challenging to motivate a team of hardworking people when they are constantly being told they aren’t good enough.

To state that the sector is “unkind and uncaring” towards older people must be corrected. I do admit that Peninsula Villages isn’t perfect and we do make mistakes, but we are not, in my opinion, unkind or uncaring towards our residents. These comments really impact those of us who work in the sector and are truly committed to the delivery of quality care and understanding of residents’ needs. We do our best in an environment that has its difficulties.

As you may be aware, we were recently awarded the Outstanding Employer of Choice by the NSW Business Chamber for the regional Central Coast awards. This is a wonderful acknowledgement of our community organisation and highlights the appreciation we have for our staff. I honestly believe the staff here at Peninsula Villages are one of our biggest assets and are confident our beloved residents would agree with this sentiment. To therefore, be generally labelled as being “unkind and uncaring”, is just not appropriate.

I am however in agreeance with the fact that the access to aged care services is hugely complex, but who created the access system?

I know that shortfalls in service provision in the industry is common. Here at Peninsula Villages we endeavour to do our best with the limited funding we are provided. Our commitment to resident focused care - that we are currently rolling out across the organisation - proves that we are focused on our residents’ needs. Nevertheless, due to the funding model that we work under we cannot deny that there are limitations in services.

In our Annual Report, I commented on the aged care financial report that stated residential aged care expenses increased by 5.4% and our government funding (income) rose by only 1.3%. That means that whilst more expenses are incurred across residential aged care, less income is received. We know something has to give, and here at the Village we are lucky enough to have other sources of income to subsidise our aged care services. Once again, this is due to a strong commitment by the Village and Board to do our best.

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In terms of the “dispiriting nature of residential care” we can’t argue this is the case. We know a high percentage of the population wish to stay at home and we get that. However, hardworking organisations like us offer more than just care. We are committed to enhancing your life and your choices. We offer a community that goes beyond just physical care needs. We are a family. We are a home.

The Commissioners report suggests that there are serious instances of substandard care and unsafe practices. This certainly is a problem. What is disappointing however is the throw away statement by the Commissioners that has an impact on all aged care providers.

As stated earlier, we admit mistakes occur but to say the sector as a whole is “substandard and unsafe” is an unfair critique of the industry and those who are working hard to maintain it. Peninsula Villages has a strong clinical governance structure in place which addresses any shortfalls in service delivery. Our team, the Executive and our Board take this extremely seriously.

In regard to the comments in the report regarding “underpaid, undervalued and insufficiently trained workforce”, we certainly acknowledge that the award rates within the sector are poor and in no way reflective of the dedication of those who work within it. At Peninsula Villages we pride ourselves on providing staff with additional benefits beyond wages. We have an encouraging and flexible employee program that aims to motivate and support our team. We also assure our staff that they are not undervalued - not by management or our residents. Our monthly CEO afternoons are dedicated to recognising our team. We celebrate staff anniversaries, we reward our team through service awards and, most of all, we look at ways of implementing initiatives throughout our organisation that have, at their core, a focus on our team. In terms of training, you only need to look at our recent Annual Report to see the commitment we make as an organisation to training and education. I would consider that we do better than most in our industry in this area.

So all in all, I would personally consider the report to be an inaccurate overview of the industry as a whole, and I do feel a little disillusioned with its outcomes. I hope everyone involved in the sector that has pride in the delivery of service we provide, supports each other and continues to work hard for our residents who know us best.