By Dr Alan Nelsen*
INSTEAD of apologising for its incompetence and the debacle with the aged care services, Mornington Peninsula Shire Council has disgracefully attempted to apportion its share of the blame to others.
More than four years ago, the then CEO indicated that the shire could not compete on cost against private aged care providers and was considering outsourcing.
Then two years ago the council itself appointed mecwacare following a rigorous tender process “which explored all options available to deliver certain aged and disability services to new clients under an aged care partner provider model”.
The current CEO, John Baker, said: “The introduction of this excellent partner provider for new clients enables a gradual transition to the new aged care system outlined by the Commonwealth Government with minimal impact for current clients and staff” … “Council is absolutely focused on ensuring continuity and quality of care for clients throughout the Commonwealth Government’s national aged care reform transition period”.
Only three months ago when the when the federal government appointed the new providers, one being mecwacare, the mayor Cr Anthony Marsh chimed in and said: “We are working closely with the Commonwealth Government and the new providers to ensure the changeover goes smoothly. Current services will remain in place until the change is complete and we expect there to be minimal disruption to care.”
However, when it and became clear that many elderly residents were without in-home care, a councillor falsely claimed that that the federal government “forced” the council to outsource its aged care services.
The mayor then changed his tune and said; “We did not get a say in the appointment of new providers, that was done by the federal government.” It seems to have conveniently slipped from the mayor’s memory that not so long ago the council itself had selected mecwacare as the organisation “best placed to provide a high level of service to clients”.
During the Tuesday 9. August council meeting a councillor pathetically stated the media and “people agitating to no end have a look at yourself and stop using click bait for attention as this is causing stress for people in their home and is unethical in my view” (“Assurance sought over in-home care” The News 16/8/22).
So, the 77-year-old resident with a “a fused back from spinal surgery and has undergone surgery for lung cancer” who mentioned to the media she had not received in-home assistance is an activist and needs to have a look at herself?
At the same meeting, a number of councillors praised the officers for doing a brilliant job and for having excellent strategies and funding for the transition. Hello, a thousand elderly without home care is an excellent job? Not one councillor questioned the executive on what went wrong.
The council cannot use the excuse that it was unaware that there was a shortage of aged care workers. In August 2021, when it was made aware that its partner mecwacare was experiencing a shortage of qualified workers, council endorsed a contract variation to enable mecwacare to employ unqualified staff to deliver domestic assistance services.
The Australian Services Union also warned the shire in a letter a year ago that “there is a workforce crisis in the aged care sector. There are simply too few workers who are committed and trained to meet service demand”.
So now what is the council’s solution? To seek assurances from the federal government that the recently outsourced care services haven’t left vulnerable clients without vital home services (isn’t the council already aware of this?) and won’t continue into the future.
No review of the council’s incompetence in failing to keep its promises, no apology for this disgraceful situation, and no indication of how it will help fix the problem.
*Alan Nelsen is treasurer of Mornington Peninsula Ratepayers’ Association.