THOUSANDS of elderly Mornington Peninsula residents caught in the middle of the former Morrison Government’s decision to move home care servicing to private providers have been left without vital support.
While the move to private providers is a result of recommendations outlined in the Aged Care Royal Commission Final Report, critics say its implementation without clear advice, time frames or options has left some recipients fearful and without any service at all.
On the eve of the 1 July transition to private providers, many of the estimated 4000 home care recipients were still confused about what was happening and had still not received any contact from one of the designated private providers to alert them to when services would start.
The shire announced in May that the federal government had appointed two new providers (Mecwacare and Bolton Clarke – formerly the Royal District Nursing Service) to deliver in-home care to peninsula residents under the Commonwealth Home Support Program.
Marj Thomas said her 94-year-old mother Joyce, who lives alone in Rosebud, was “distressed” and confused about what was happening, and had not been able to understand the paperwork or find out when she would next get help.
“She was due for an assistant to help her shower on Friday, but the service we had has finished and nobody turned up to help mum so we don’t know what’s happening,” she said.
“I go down as often as I can but I can’t be there all the time and mum won’t leave her home, not should she be forced to.
“I think it’s pretty disgusting, we are lucky and can take care of most of mum’s needs, but there will be families in a very difficult position and lots of elderly people left not knowing what’s going on.
“I’m worried there are people who could actually die because of not getting the help they need, or end up being forced into nursing homes, which is not what they want.”
Ms Thomas said she finally got to speak with someone at Mecwacare late on Friday, who said they were “hoping” to have someone phone this week to arrange services for the following week.
The shire’s manager Community Services, Jo Bradshaw, said it had been assured by both Mecwacare and Bolton Clarke that all essential services would continue to be delivered from Friday 1 June.
“We did offer to keep a small number of staff available to assist with the post-transition period however this was declined by the federal government’s Commonwealth Home Support Program,” Bradshaw said.
However, Ms Thomas said her mother’s lack of shower assistance on Friday showed the system was not working.
Balnarring resident and home care recipient Barb Rimington said her many phone calls and letters to the shire’s CEO John Baker had gone unanswered, and there didn’t seem to be any “interim transition planning”.
“My details have apparently been passed on to a nominated private provider, have tried to ring it on several occasions: no answer,” Ms Rimington said.
“It takes no stretch of the imagination to wonder how many aged and incapacitated people across the peninsula have been left to rot. How many will be found dead?”
On the day before the changeover, Bolton Clarke’s At Home Support Operational Performance, Sharon Kehoe, said the “team” was working hard in preparation for the transition of services the next day.
“With a large number of clients involved, we are still receiving information from the council. Once their information is received, we are working to quickly be in touch with people to schedule services and understand individual needs,” Kehoe said.
“We apologise for any disruption during this time as we prioritise essential care services.”
The News understands staffing difficulties could be adding to the delays.
Kehoe said Bolton Clarke was continuing “to grow our dedicated team by actively recruiting across the region and welcome applications from local people who are interested in employment opportunities”.
She urged clients who had questions or who had not yet heard from their new provider to phone on 1300 221 122.
The federal government and Mecwacare did not respond to media requests before deadline.