Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Jul-Aug 2011 Contents There is no cynical self-interested
Gordon Gecko raking in millions
from Australian aged care.
There's much more profit in
term deposits than in aged care
and any mud thrown at for-profit
providers on this basis is either
ignorant or disingenuous.
In essence, any strong
difference between the two
models is mitigated by the
regulatory 'command economy'
in which we operate.
Let's recall the terrain in which
all providers operate. According
to Chris Richardson of Access
Economics, the aged care
industry is the most regulated
and controlled of any industry
in Australia. Government
controls bed/package numbers,
compliance, regulation, 'quality'
and policy. Industry engagement
is at best piecemeal.
As a long-term senior
bureaucrat, it is clear to me
that, notwithstanding some fine
individuals in the department,
DoHA generally treats the
industry with suspicion, verging
on intolerance. It has happily
kept the industry on a starvation
diet for years. Its proposed new
complaints framework is so
complex and so burdensome,
it robs the provider of the
most fundamental recourse to
procedural fairness. Providers
may be in breach for merely
getting up in the morning (or for
that case -- staying in bed).
When COAG stepped up
reform for health and hospitals
in 2009, it sent aged care to the
back burner of slow review with
the Productivity Commission
(PC). After the last federal
budget, the minister had the
temerity to say that the industry
had 'agreed' to no real new
funding for the coming year
since we would be happy to
wait for the final PC report. We
are constantly told 'it can be no
The final PC report is finally
in the hands of the minister. The
government's response is not
too far away and then the future
will be upon us. Let's be clear,
this future will be longer than
the Franklin Expedition's three
winters. Governments don't
undertake major reforms like this
A mature aged care association
provides a 'community of
practice' in which all providers
can operate at their comparative
best. The significant increase in
demand in all sectors of the aged
care industry means that a crude
sense of competition between
providers misses the need to
increase the intellectual, strategic
and operational capacity within
the industry as a whole.
In ACQI, the conversation is
on representation, performance
and quality rather than the
financial basis of the provider.
We enjoy the fruits of diversity in
approach and methodology.
I won't duplicate the findings
of the PricewaterhouseCoopers
report but recommend it for your
consideration. The business case
for a single association is clear.
The current unavoidable cost
of duplication, lack of developed
specialisations and opportunity
cost in actively influencing
government is clearly outdated.
Two viable alternative models are
provided and their comparative
benefits are also laid clear.
The real risk is that we maintain
the old 'Admiralty debates'
rather than the imperatives of the
As a new arrival in the aged
care sector, I have been grateful
to those industry leaders who
have generously shared their
views, including those who are
philosophically opposed to the
idea of a merger with providers
who operate a different model, be
it profit or not-for-profit.
There is value in diversity of
opinion but unless we unite as an
industry and get much better at
influencing government, aged care
risks being frozen into the icepack.
But for those of you for whom
'the profit' question must be
fought come what may, rest
assured -- you will be free to divide
the icepack on that basis. n
Nick Ryan is the CEO of Aged
Care Queensland Inc.
Note: The use of the Franklin
expedition as a metaphor for change
is adapted from Annie Dillard's
Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions
and Encounters (Harper Perennial:
2008) p 36-38.
Design & Construction
for an Ageing Population Conference
What are your options?
27th July 2011, Novotel Brighton Beach
Exchange information, ideas, philosophies
and practical advice on building innovation,
sustainability, business considerations and
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Registration Form available from
some fine individuals in
the department, DoHA
generally treats the industry
with suspicion, verging on
intolerance. It has happily
kept the industry on a
starvation diet for years."
18 | JULY -- AUGUST 2011 | AAA
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