Over the course of 2018-19, St Vincent’s Care Services (SVCS) grew considerably, transitioning a total of five facilities from other aged care providers. The aged care division also undertook a number of improvements to both existing infrastructure and facilities, and to operational systems, policies and processes.

The five facilities newly operating under the SVCS banner are:

  • St Vincent’s Care Services Hawthorn (previously Mary MacKillop Aged Care), which was established by the Sisters of St Joseph more than 60 years ago, and provides accommodation and care for 91 aged care residents.
  • St Vincent’s Care Services Boondall and St Vincent’s Care Services Carseldine (previously both run by Holy Spirit Care Services). The Boondall facility is an executive-style 128 independent unit complex, which also has a small residential aged care unit, catering for up to 10 residents; the Carseldine site has 127 independent living units and 179 aged care beds.
  • St Vincent’s Care Services Yennora (locally known as Rosary Village), which is home to 141 aged care residents, and had been providing care under the auspices of Our Lady of the Rosary Parish since 1996.
  • St Vincent’s Care Services Haberfield (locally known as St Joan of Arc Villa), which is a close-knit aged care facility for 50 residents and has been a significant part of the heritage-listed suburb since 1990.

The addition of new facilities has bolstered the division significantly, taking the total number of facilities to 19, and seeing SVCS exceed its 2020 target for Independent Living Unit assets. In an aged care sector in flux, a number of other facilities have been identified as opportunities for potential transition in 2019-20.

While SVCS obtained a small number of home care packages through transitions during the year, the division’s growth targets in this area have been hampered due to a lack of home care packages being released by the Commonwealth Government.

With more elderly people choosing to remain in their own home for longer, and with the flexibility of care delivery options increasing, providing aged care services in the community remains an area of strong interest to SVCS.

The fact that SVCS’ growth and improvement occurred at a time when Australia’s aged care sector is experiencing unprecedented demand and a range of other serious challenges, is a testament to the division’s staff.

For example, in March 2019, aged care advisory firm StewartBrown reported more than 45% of Australia’s residential aged care facilities are running at a loss.

In addition, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety – announced in October 2018 – is appropriately creating an enormous amount of self-examination by providers and is already transforming the sector well before its final report is due in November 2020.

St Vincent’s Health Australia strongly supports the Commission and has invested considerable resources to be able to respond if required. It has already provided substantial information on its own aged care arrangements as per the Commission’s request.

It’s in this environment that the Federal Government continued to roll out its aged care reform package, with a range of measures being implemented under the Single Quality Framework as of 1 July 2019.

A central element to the framework is a new set of eight Aged Care Quality Standards – with a focus on ensuring flexibility, empowering residents with more choice, and improving compliance – the first reform to the quality assessment standards in 20 years.

While the new standards align with SVCS’ existing philosophy of person-centred care, the division developed and rolled out a host of new policies, tools and education programs over the course of 2018-19 to satisfy the requirements of the new regulations, and to fully prepare and equip facilities and staff for the significant changes that began on 1 July 2019.

With the level of scrutiny of facilities and providers sharply increasing, SVCS experienced its first ever sanction following the findings of an unannounced audit during the year. SVCS was not alone in this experience, with the number of sanctioned facilities across Australia growing considerably over 2018-19.

While the experience was a difficult one, the lessons have been greatly beneficial, and have informed positive changes – not only at the site in question – but across all SVCS aged care facilities (eg: renovation works have taken place at a number of our facilities, particularly at St Vincent’s Care Services Kangaroo Point, bringing the 40-year-old facility up to date).

Alongside the division’s efforts to grow and improve its services, leadership and staff remained focused on the organisation’s Mission.

During the year, the SVCS Mission team developed the Heart of Caring formation program, a training package for staff that applies the St Vincent’s Mission and Values to real-life situations in aged care. The aim was to develop a program that translates and resonates with all SVCS staff, regardless of role, and helps them appreciate the impact they have on people in their care.

The program emphasises the importance of effective communication, regulating emotion and behaviour, self-care, teamwork, and problem solving in order to best serve our residents and clients – all within the framework of St Vincent’s Health’s Mission and Values.

Amid the challenges of 2018-19, one thing remained constant – the commitment of SVCS’ staff to its residents and clients. The entire division is acutely aware of the responsibility it shoulders as providers of care to some of the most vulnerable, and the pressures encountered in delivering this care to expected standards. The resilience shown by staff in the face of these challenges – and in the sector’s constantly changing landscape – has been exceptional, and their ongoing compassion and love for residents and clients has been essential to the division’s continued success.

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