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Southern Cross Care moves to allay fears

Friday, 21st September, 2018

Southern Cross Care Broken Hill’s CEO Chris Wright (left) with Chairperson Bob Johnson. PICTURE: Callum Marshall Southern Cross Care Broken Hill’s CEO Chris Wright (left) with Chairperson Bob Johnson. PICTURE: Callum Marshall

By Callum Marshall

Local aged care provider Southern Cross Care say locals have nothing to worry about when it comes to their facilities and staff.

Their comments come after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a Royal Commission into the sector on Sunday, and reports of abuse and mismanagement in aged care facilities by Four Corners on Monday night.

Chris Wright, CEO of Southern Cross Care Broken Hill, said their facilities were “very attendant to the standards” required within the sector.

“I can base that on the results we’ve had with our accreditation visits over the last nine months. We’ve had four accreditation visits and each one noted that we satisfied the various quality standards required of an aged care provider,” he said.

“Saint Anne’s is the unit that provides our highest care needs and there’s a wing in there that’s dementia specific and other sections which are very palliative in their services.

“There’s a high clinical requirement required of those kind of services and to me it’s satisfying we’ve met those standards through those accreditation visits.”

To meet those requirements, Mr Wright said the organisation had separate levels of clinical care with the right staff in each.

“We’re led by very highly experienced team of registered nurses, who are the pinnacle of clinical nursing care. We also have enrolled nurses who are usually just as experienced.”

Mr Wright said training for new applicants was extensive.

“It’s managed here by us through a rigorous recruitment process and then supported by a couple of weeks of fairly intensive training with a specialist trainer here,” he said.

“Then, they go into the wings and work in a buddying situation where they’re basically mentored and supported by experienced workers while they’re doing the job.”

Due to the high care needs of the local aged care service and the level of training required, Mr Wright said some applicants find it too difficult. 

“If we have a high attrition rate it would be through that first month of on-the-floor experience. I would say a fair proportion of our new entrants decide this is not the job for them for all sorts of different reasons,” he said.

“Caring for high-need, very frail people who need to be fed, changed and showered, means the needs are higher.

“About 20 per cent of our new starters decide to check out after a month or so (and that) this is not the job they feel they can do and do well. We do have a regular intake of new workers.”

Combined with the difficulties of training the best possible staff, Mr Wright said the small population within Broken Hill made attracting the right applicants even harder.

“Our bigger problem here is that Broken Hill services a limited population (and) we don’t have the bottomless line of people wanting work and applying for positions here,” he said. 

“One of our biggest focuses would be ensuring that we continually apply for advertising and then pay to take the people through a recruitment process that satisfies us, (and) that they’ve actually got the intestinal fortitude to do the job.”

A key part of maintaining a high standard across the facilities was that a proper complaints process was available for those who needed it, said Mr Wright. 

“We do have a complaints process and certainly I’ve had a number of meetings over the months in my office of family members concerned about the quality of care,” he said.

“Now that doesn’t fall into the abuse (that’s been recently described), but there was one particular person whose partner was here and she felt that a video camera into one of the shut-door units wasn’t covered (properly).

“She explained to us that the privacy was being invaded by people who should have no interest in that unit. So things like that are brought to our attention, and we address them.

“I made it quite clear to family members and residents that my door is open, so if there is a concern I need to hear about it.

“From my perspective, what has come to me is really more to do with ensuring aspects of clinical care that might concern a partner rather than issues of abuse or substandard care that’s been reported on.”

His comments were echoed by Southern Cross Care Broken Hill chairperson, Bob Johnson.

“We try our best and our staff try their best, but there’s always times when things do go wrong,” he said.

“We have to admit that we’re comfortable for people to come in and look at our organisation and see that we’re doing the right thing.”

The Four Corners report on Monday night highlighted that some individuals were given $6 a day in terms of food, were poorly served for things such as incontinence pads and, in one instance, given anti-psychotics by staff without proper training and without the prior knowledge of family members.

Mr Wright said Southern Cross Care had not fallen foul with any of these issues.

“From the clinical perspective, anti-psychotics, depressants and stimulants are basically all prescribed by an attendant GP. So one would expect that those GP decisions are made and communicated to a clinical team and family members,” said Mr Wright. 

“In regard to food, we actually employ an external contractor to provide the cleaning and meal services here.

“There’s (also) a regular review of quality of care in each of our units which includes the meal supply, our unit down in Irymple called Oasis, as well as our three different care units here.

“I don’t know what the cost analysis is, all I know is that we pay that organisation a fairly healthy amount every month for our meal and cleaning services. From my perspective, they’re doing a good job.

“There’ll be occasions where there’s grumbles about food not being what individuals want or other complaints, but that’s inevitable when you’re serving about 240-odd meals a day.

“But I have not had complaints about the food. And certainly, what I have discussed with family members, is more about the care their individual partner or family member is receiving.

“99.9 per cent of the time, those concerns are quite constructive and collaborative and I think that’s the relationship we endeavour to have here.”

Mr Johnson said that although a Royal Commission had been called into the sector, it was still business-as-usual for the local aged care services.

“We’re not concentrating on it, that’s something that’ll happen around us and it’s not whether we support or don’t support (it), we’re more interested in our mission in terms of seeing the people of Broken Hill get the best care they can,” he said.

“You have rogue organisations and you have rogue staff, that’s the nature of life. From our point of view, we need to ensure that we don’t.

“If we have problems like that we deal with them appropriately. Royal Commissions take two years and we’ve got to make sure our families and our residents are supported at any time.”

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