Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Spt-Oct 2014 Contents "A ll aspects of service
delivery are challenging,"
says Robyn Batten,
CEO of Blue Care, when
asked of the specific
challenges her organisation faces as a
provider of aged services in rural and
Blue Care operates more than 260
centres in 80 communities across
Queensland and northern NSW, totalling
4,460 beds (including 170 provisional
bed licenses) and 1,146 community care
packages. Its clients are cared for by 8,840
staff and 2,311 volunteers.
Many of Blue Care services are in
remote locations, such as Thursday Island,
Cloncurry in north-west Queensland and
Cunnamulla in the south-west of the state.
In the Northern Territory, Australian
Regional and Remote Community
Services, which began operations on 1
July, employs more than 500 staff who
provide residential and community care in
12 locations across the NT, including the
very remote Docker River and Mutitjulu.
Discussing the challenges facing her
organisation, Batten says that recruiting
and retaining staff is the most difficult.
"For example, in Docker River, all staff
fly in on a rotation basis, live in the
'compound' and many of their hours of
work are paid as overtime," she says.
In Tenant Creek and Mount Isa, Blue
Care community care staff may travel two
hours each way to provide in-home care.
"This care is of course even more crucial
in isolated communities," she adds.
Many of Blue Care's remote services
operate in harsh physical environments -
for example, close to the sea on Thursday
Island - which Batten says makes the
maintenance of services very expensive.
"In many regional areas, such as
Gladstone, Mackay and Emerald, we are
competing with the mining industry for
staff. Often the mining industry pay more
than double the wages we are able to pay."
Given these challenges, Batten says
that any improvement in funding, such
as in the recently announced increase
to the viability supplement, is welcome.
However, she adds: "There are a number of
current and recent past examples of rural
and remote services that have not been
sustainable and have had to be devolved to
larger providers such as Blue Care."
She says that even for a "large and
capable organisation" such as Blue Care,
it can be difficult to break even in the NT.
"And several will make a major loss, even
after the 20 per cent increase."
Asked what impact the supplement
increase will have for services on the
ground, Batten says that "every cent
received goes towards maintaining quality
of care and staff conditions. This increase
will reduce our deficits."
Blue Care welcomed the opportunity
to speak with Assistant Minister for
Social Services Mitch Fifield and senior
department officers about working together
to develop more sustainable models of
service delivery for rural and remote areas,
Batten says when asked what further
measures government could take.
"Long-term sustainable solutions are
required and these are best developed in
partnership between providers experienced
in these areas and the department. I am
optimistic this issue is taken seriously and
we will have new opportunities to develop
sustainable models," she says.
WELCOME, BUT MORE
Lee-ann Irwin, CEO of the Whiddon
Group, says one of her organisation's
Rural and remote
To address the unique challenges
faced by organisations operating in
rural and remote areas, a 20 per cent
boost to the Viability Supplement
was a headline measure in the
recent Federal Budget. AAA speaks
to the chief executives of three rural
and remote providers to discover
what impact the funding will have on their services.
and Torres Strait
Islander flexible aged
care services (as at 30
services (as at
30 June 2014)
Services receiving Viability Supplement by state
56 | SEPTEMBER -- OCTOBER 2014 | AAA
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