Caring for the elderly amid COVID-19

Caring for the elderly amid COVID-19 in Maroba | CIO Look Magazine

“Viv Allanson is a CEO who never accepts the status Quo, in fact she was announced as the Australian – Game Changer of the Year in early 2018 , 2019 and just recently Asian – Game Changer of the Year 2020 in her role as CEO of Maroba. In that role, Maroba has continued to be on the front foot and is frequently recognised for its innovation within the Aged Care sector. Viv is a leader who strives to bring others on the journey of growth and change always sharing generously her time and experience to support all who aspire to be a “Difference Maker”. The Registered Nurse in Viv never lays down and is always advocating for the profession and its advancement as an integral part of the Health Care team.”

Maroba Aged Care’s Viv Allanson: in the red, but doing everything “right” according to Government’s aged care business advisory service

A statement that highlights how broken the funding model for aged care in Australia truly is.

Viv now oversees 155 aged care beds across 2 facilities, plus a retirement village and a range of community and wellness programs that Maroba offers to people living at home across Newcastle and the Hunter region all on our Waratah campus.

She has also been one of the sector’s most outspoken critics of the Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s comments that aged care homes should re-open their doors to visitors during the pandemic that resulted in the development of the Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes during COVID-19 in July.

Viv supports the Industry Code but says it is challenging balancing the wishes of families and residents.

Viv also commends her staff for their cooperation and support, but says many are understandably anxious about what is happening in the community.

It’s been a huge demand on our teams within the same footprint of rostering, and that’s really challenging for people over time, but they are still wanting to show up and do their best. No one wants to be the one to bring Covid -19 into our service.

Leading an Aged Care service in the context of a Global Health crisis / an Aged Care Royal Commission / two decades of inadequate funding / an escalating Aged Care workforce crisis and an exponential increase in overall compliance activities has felt like being in a dingy on the high seas in the midst of the perfect storm.

Risk of transmission, whilst appears relatively low in some areas, the outcome for older people in our care remains Catastrophic especially with the challenge to our regular supply chains….PPE was at one time impossible to secure and pricing remains unreasonably high.

Viv points out that all the National Cabinet and State and Territory health advice still points to people aged over 70 being at higher risk and  staying home where they can.

“People don’t seem to be able to join the dots on that advice,” she said. “The same should apply to people aged over 90, especially living in communal environments.”

Communicating with all our stakeholders has been a critical success factor throughout the pandemic, with Maroba’s first Covid announcement on our Facebook page on 28/01/2020. We are now up to 30 updates to families and 13 video casts and multiple staff specific announcements.

Families and Government expect a ‘hospital on a cruise ship’.  Viv says the costs of meeting the more complex needs of today’s aged care resident – along with the increasing costs of compliance – requires a hospital model of funding.

“The care is very complex yet the expectation seems to be that you should be running a hospital on a cruise ship. Trying to do that on $240 a day doesn’t go very far,” she said.

“If we want to get services up to a standard where we as citizens of this nation want to live in aged care… the community need to say to the Government, we need to put more money into aged care … or the Government needs to come clean to the community and say you need to pay the difference yourself.”

The CEO points out that wages have increased 38% in the past decade while the subsidy had only gone up 18%. You don’t have to be Einstein to know that that doesn’t add up. The funding model is floored and the funding vs expectation gap is widening by the day.

Aged care living under “police state”

Viv acknowledges that the answer is not simply ‘more money’ – but also the need for the relationship between providers and the Government to be renegotiated.

“We are seeing in the Royal Commission that care is compromised,” she said.

“In terms of the abuse of residents, it is never acceptable in any setting yet no amount of money will fix that, if the wrong people are employed or the culture is toxic”

“But talking about the systemic problems and trying to meet new bars of expectation and compliance in an environment which is more like a police state, where there is no collaboration any more between providers, the  legislator and the Quality and Safety Commission. I think we have to say if we are in human services, a big stick and policing will not bring about the aged care services that we truly desire.”

“We need to start acknowledging there needs to be is humanity and heart in the mix,” she added.

Aged care leaders too afraid of regulator

Viv says at the heart of this problem is that some aged care leaders are too afraid to challenge the system because they fear being pursued by the regulators.

“Now is that the system we want in this country?” she asked. “If we have a baseline of service to people that is based on fear, then we have no hope of getting the system right no matter how much compliance is thrown at us.”“If the Royal Commission adds further to the compliance regime, I may as well get out of the game because my heart will no longer be required.”

I encourage all leaders to look for the opportunities this crisis has put before us all ,no matter what industry or sector you are in, before you miss those once in a generation moments for timely innovation…then give it all you’ve got !

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