Aged Care Year in Review 2021

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JANUARY

Washington H. Soul Pattinson and Regis co-founder Bryan Dorman withdraw their $555 million bid for the ASX-listed aged care provider, causing a share sell-off.

A Productivity Commission report reveals wait times for Level 4 Home Care Packages have reached 28 months, with 100,000 people still in the queue.

The West Australian State Government introduces a new aged care planning policy, which it says will slash “red tape” to fast track 2,000 new beds across the state.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission lodges requests for more contractors with the aim of tripling the number of audits it performs in 2021 from 200 to 600.

Five weeks out from its deadline, the Royal Commission releases research showing 40% of aged care residents report experiencing emotional abuse, physical abuse or neglect, though questions are raised over its sampling given only 391 residents were questioned. The Commission also reveals it was hit by a data breach in November.

Newly-appointed Health and Aged Care Minister Greg Hunt releases the independent review into the 2020 COVID-19 outbreaks at St Basil’s and Epping Gardens in Melbourne, which left a total of 83 residents dead with the virus. The report points to a range of factors including difficulties in emergency planning and preparedness.

StewartBrown’s quarterly Aged Care Financial Performance Survey paints a grim picture for the sector, with 52% of homes running at a loss during the September quarter – with the bottom 75% by as much as $15.14 per resident per day. Home care does not fare much better, with revenue dropping by 4.5%.

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is given the green light; however, National Cabinet decides against mandatory jabs for aged care workers.

The Federal Government announces measures to reduce the $1.25 billion in unspent funds sitting in home care providers’ bank accounts, with providers to be paid in arrears for services delivered.

A trial for the Federal Government’s Aged Care System Navigator is extended to June, with the $74 million program aiming to provide support while the Royal Commission remains ongoing.

Regis’ home in Nedlands, Perth, is hit with sanctions as police investigate two deaths, as well as claims by university interns of elder abuse. The police investigation closes in February, with no evidence of criminality found.

Former HammondCare CEO Dr Stephen Judd (pictured) is appointed Member of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day honours for service to people with dementia.

FEBRUARY

The Federal Opposition moves Mark Butler out of the climate change portfolio in a Shadow Cabinet reshuffle and back into Health and Ageing, which he oversaw as a Minister in the Gillard Government.

Graeme Croft, CEO and founder of private aged care provider Signature Care, provides a submission to the Royal Commission saying both State and Federal Governments failed aged care staff and residents during the pandemic. The Commission also releases research showing that more than one third of aged care residents ended up in emergency departments in 2018-19.

The Federal Government creates a surge workforce with the aim of vaccinating almost 500,000 aged care residents, staff, and volunteers as soon as the Pfizer vaccine is made locally available.

AstraZeneca fights back against reports in Europe that its vaccine is not as effective for people aged 65 and up, saying they are “completely incorrect”; at this stage, AstraZeneca is the only available vaccine in Australia, and older people will continue to largely receive it following ATAGI advice on blood clotting in younger recipients in April.

The Victorian Government completes a new $55 million aged care home (pictured) in Kew, Melbourne, doubling down on its support for public RAC facilities.

A StewartBrown survey finds that aged care residents are receiving an average 15 minutes per day of allied health services – but only half of this is delivered by qualified allied health workers or outside professionals, with the rest delivered by lifestyle officers.

Another research paper from the Royal Commission finds no difference in the quality of care between Government-supported and paying residents.

Not For Profit Fronditha Care appoints Faye Spiteri as CEO, replacing Michael Malakonas following his resignation.

In anticipation of the Royal Commission’s findings, Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) teams up with Mercer for an Aged Care Workforce Benchmarking Survey, inviting providers from across the country to participate.

The Aged Care Workforce Industry Council (ACWIC) launches a new Voluntary Industry Code of Practice for aged care providers and workers, to get ahead of community expectations and show the sector is taking responsibility for “shifting mindsets” following the Royal Commission.

Rebekha Sharkie, independent member for Mayo, calls for a cap on home care management fees, saying some providers are gouging up to 45% of a package in fees and charges.

The South Australian Adult Safeguarding Unit’s first Annual Report finds 946 allegations of abuse of older Australians, both inside and outside of residential aged care.

A campaign by the Australian Aged Care Collaboration kicks off, threatening to make aged care an election issue across marginal seats if the Government does not act on the Royal Commission’s recommendations; it gains a boost with the resignation of controversial MP Craig Kelly from the Liberal Party. Peak union bodies also declare a “Day of Action” to campaign for mandated aged care staffing ratios.

The final research paper by the Royal Commission ahead of its report reveals taxpayers are willing to pay more for a better aged care system, as Commonwealth Departments offer “in principle” support for the majority of the Counsel Assisting’s 124 recommendations.

Pfizer vaccinations begin as the first shipment lands in Australia from Singapore, with 240 aged care homes included in the first week of the rollout.

Regis Healthcare posts a $11 million half-yearly profit, but is alone among the listed providers, with Estia suffering a $5.3 million loss, and Japara reporting a loss of $9.5 million for the six months to December 2020.

The Labor Party launches a campaign of its own attacking the Federal Government for its “neglect” of aged care, combining short videos of aged care horror stories with a petition calling on the Government to support its proposed changes.

MARCH

The final report from the Royal Commission arrives, at five volumes and more than 2,800 pages. Titled ‘Care, Dignity and Respect’, it says billions in funding will be needed to reform the sector over a five-year road map, with an aged care levy potentially on the cards, and excoriates both Government and providers for the state of the sector.

In a scorching interview in the wake of the report, Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia Chief Executive Ian Yates calls for “about a third” of aged care providers to be struck from the industry, and called for a “strong regulator” to oversee the sector as well as the introduction of star ratings.

The vaccine rollout in aged care homes falls behind shortly after it starts, with only one-third of the projected doses administered in the first week, prompting the ADF to step in and help.

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg throws cold water on the idea of a 1% aged care levy, saying the Government’s efforts to “grow the economy” through lower taxes would help fund the sector’s multi-billion-dollar overhaul.

Despite a $218 million injection from the Federal Government, at least 170 aged care homes in Australia fail to meet infection control training requirements by a February 28 deadline.

A scandal erupts at Melbourne-based Chronos Care with brothers Gerry and Chris Apostolatos, former chicken farm owners who went bankrupt following a 17-year ban for animal cruelty, accused of embezzling half a million dollars from the provider in 2014 to pay for luxury cars and mortgages.

A report from StewartBrown finds that 58% of aged care homes are operating at a loss, forecasting that this figure will jump to 70% with an operating loss of $1 billion by the end of the year.

Mike Callaghan, chairman of the Retirement Income Review, rubbishes as “inefficient” the idea of funding aged care through a rise in superannuation.

Analysis from the NSW Treasury finds that older people living healthier lives and working longer could save the state up to $1.5 billion.

The Federal Government commits another $1.1 billion to its COVID-19 response and suppression strategy, including extra funding for aged care homes.

Private operator TLC Healthcare is the first to gain approval to directly administer COVID-19 vaccines to residents and staff as part of phase 1A of the Federal Government’s vaccine rollout.

DCM Institute wraps up its tenth and largest ever LEADERS SUMMIT. Held across five cities, speakers discuss the aftermath of the Royal Commission and highlight why executives should expect their pay packets to rise.

A US aged care star rating system, similar to one proposed for Australia following the Royal Commission, is labelled “broken” by the New York Times, which found it contributed to aged care deaths from COVID-19.

APRIL

Bupa, the largest aged care operator in Australia, hands down a $71 million loss in 2020; coupled with the $52 million loss in 2019, the company has now lost $123 million over two years.

Estia records a $5.4 million half-yearly profit from $303 million revenue, with its share price climbing 26% in three months.

The Aged Care Financing Authority (ACFA) recommends against the scrapping of Refundable Accommodation Deposits (RADs) despite the Royal Commission urging otherwise, saying that removing RADs would leave a “significant number” of providers under pressure and struggling to pay back their debts.

David Maher announces he is stepping down as Managing Director of Not For Profit Catholic Healthcare, a post he has held for 10 years, after more than two decades at the organisation.

Australia reaches a milestone of half a million COVID-19 vaccinations, including 82,500 aged care residents.

Not For Profit Anglicare goes to the Fair Work Commission as it tries to bring its staffing costs down to 85% of Government subsidy income, following a $20 million loss in residential care last year.

The Federal Government misses its target to have all aged care residents and staff vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of March.

A survey of 95% of providers by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) finds that a “small majority” are still using paper-based systems to record visitor and resident travel for coronavirus tracing, and 40% still do not have systems to allow remote visits.

The largest home care provider in Australia is born when myHomecare, backed by Quadrant Private Equity, buys out Let’s Get Care to create an organisation with more than 9,000 home care packages and 18,000 clients under its belt.

Property investment management company HomeCo targets a $1 billion capital raising to establish a new health and wellness fund, including aged care.

In a vote of confidence for the aged care sector, Tanarra Capital, an Australia-based diversified alternative asset management firm, buys a majority stake in software company Health Metrics.

Australian Aged Care Collaboration (AACC) releases a 15-point plan it urges the Federal Government to adopt following the Royal Commission, including scrapping the Aged Care Approvals Round (ACAR); at the same time, a COTA-led alliance of 12 peak bodies demands major reform within the next 12 to 18 months.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA), with new modelling in hand, appeals to the Federal Government to increase the number of doctors and nurses in aged care homes.

Jenene Buckley (pictured right) announces she will step down as CEO of Not For Profit Feros Care at the end of June after 20 years in the role, during which time she grew its customer base from 100 to 48,000 clients.

Former NSW Premier and now HammondCare boss Mike Baird brings ex-NSW Government and NAB staff into the organisation; he also rejects rumours of a potential return to politics.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison dumps the Government’s 31 October target to have Australia fully vaccinated against COVID-19, conceding that it is unlikely everyone will have had two jabs by the end of the year.

The Grattan Institute thinktank says funding the recommendations from the Royal Commission will come with a $10 billion per year price tag, in order to create a high quality system for older Australians.

Labor says aged care could be Australia’s next big job opportunity, with the Royal Commission reforms able to spur huge numbers of new jobs, as unions call for a 25% increase to the workforce at a cost of $1.5 billion per year.

StewartBrown warns that development pipelines from listed providers such as Regis, Estia and Japara could be on hold for years according to its latest financial performance analysis.

Catholic Health Australia CEO Pat Garcia rattles the sector when he (correctly) predicts a “third or fourth wave” of COVID-19 will hit Australia.

Powerful unions including the Health Services Union (HSU) and Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) lobby the Federal Government ahead of the May Budget, with demands such as mandatory 24/7 staffing ratios in residential aged care and higher funding for the sector.

MAY

StewartBrown delivers its Aged Care Sector Update for the year, predicting “stop-gap” funding for aged care in the Budget and headaches around the Government’s new home care arrears guidelines.

Not For Profit Catholic provider Calvary Health Care lodges a surprise $277.9 million bid for ASX-listed provider Japara; it will successfully acquire Japara by year’s end.

The new Aged Care Reform Network launches, replacing the former private-operator-led peak body, the Aged Care Guild.

The National Aged Care Alliance (NACA), representing 54 peak national aged care organisations, urges the Government to use the Budget to clear the Home Care Package Waiting List.

Wellways Australia agrees to back-pay staff more than $1.5 million after entering into an enforceable undertaking with the Fair Work Ombudsman.

In the Federal Budget, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg reveals a $17.7 billion package to transform Australia’s aged care system by 2025 – though Ansell Strategic warns it falls short of the Royal Commissioners’ recommendations.

The sector mourns the sudden passing of Ross Low, former CEO of BaptistCare NSW & ACT.

The Fair Work Commission agrees to a number of changes to improve working conditions in home care and disability care following successful action by the HSU.

Estia pays out $12.35 million to settle a class action brought by its own shareholders over market disclosures in 2015 and 2016.

In a submission to the Fair Work Commission’s annual minimum wage review, LASA warns the aged care sector won’t be able to deliver wage rises for two years.

Australian Unity bolsters its push into Queensland with a $65 million purchase of Greengate Partnership, adding Greengate’s three operational sites – including one in Brisbane – to its portfolio, plus a development site at Auchenflower.

Two former bankers, Andrew Thorburn and Michael Traill, aim to raise $250 million to invest in lifting standards in the aged care, social housing, and disability sectors.

The Federal Government announces it plans to implement the Royal Commission recommendations on introducing more stringent reporting and prudential requirements for providers; separately, it also increases the minimum meals unit price for aged care providers to $7.50.

Founder Tamar Krebs moves to the Executive Director position after a decade as CEO of Group Homes Australia, amid a wider management and executive shake-up.

Lucy O’Flaherty, CEO of Tasmanian aged care provider Glenview Community Services, resigns after 10 years in the top job.

Jenny Hall, Executive Manager Residential Services at South Australian aged care, retirement village and community service operator Helping Hand, is appointed CEO of UnitingSA.

CFO Grant Reubenicht is confirmed CEO of AnglicareSA, replacing Peter Sandeman, and Glenna Parker is appointed Anglicare Sydney’s new Chief Clinical Officer.

JUNE

The Presbyterian Church of Queensland calls in the receivers, leaving Apollo Care to snap up three of PresCare’s regional Queensland facilities.

The Federal Government introduces its first legislation in response to the Royal Commission, targeting home care, restraints and ACFA.

As Victoria’s outbreak continues, the Federal Government hands out $60 million to support COVID‑19 measures for impacted aged care facilities until 30 June next year.

The HSU makes a bid to the Fair Work Commission to include home care workers in the work value case aimed at lifting aged care wages by 25%.

Canadian firm NorthWest Healthcare offers $2.6 billion to take over Australian Unity Healthcare Property Trust (AUHPT).

Japara opens its books to Calvary for due diligence, as the Catholic provider revises its bid for the ASX-listed company to $320 million. Bolton Clarke then enters the fray with a $326 million offer.

RAC providers are required to use a new Federal Government tool to report the total number of aged care workers at each aged care service who have received a first dose or who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Western Australia becomes the first state to mandate COVID-19 jabs for aged care workers.

The Federal Government provides funding to the University of Wollongong, the Australian College of Nursing, and Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) to establish Aged Care Transition to Practice (ACTTP) programs in order to attract and retain up to 740 new nurses.

Belinda Moyes, former CEO of Geelong-based Barwon Health, is appointed Catholic Healthcare’s interim CEO.

Health Minister Greg Hunt (pictured) announces all of Australia’s 2,566 aged care facilities have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

The Federal Government announces a $112.1 million investment to strengthen the delivery of entry-level aged care services through the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP).

COTA Australia says it is “generally very pleased with and encouraged by” the measures for aged care introduced in the Budget.

The Federal Department of Health begins a series of seven webinars on the aged care reforms announced in the 2021-22 Budget in response to the Royal Commission.

Of the Queensland Government’s 16 taxpayer-funded aged care facilities, only two report that they are at least 90% compliant with the minimum 3.65 hours of care per resident daily.

Libby Lyons, former Head of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, is appointed the inaugural Chair of the Aged Care Workforce Industry Council.

JULY

The Federal Government’s new basic daily fee supplement, an extra $10 per day per resident, is now available to aged care providers who are willing to submit a detailed quarterly report.

There are rumours that another party has entered the fray for ASX-listed operator Japara Healthcare – and it’s not another Not For Profit.

The latest StewartBrown survey reveals ​54% of aged care homes are still operating at a loss – even with COVID-19 funding. Occupancy down 1.66%.

Japara Healthcare, which is still mulling over Bolton Clarke’s $326 million bid to take over the Melbourne-based business, sells another aged care home.

In our special IT issue of SATURDAY magazine, we speak to Johny Ågotnes, the Chief Information Officer at Bolton Clarke, who argues the role of IT will be critical to winning over the customer and maintaining operational efficiency in the future – and it will be mid-sized operators who will struggle in the new competitive market.

David Di Pilla (pictured), director of the emerging private aged care provider Aurrum and the healthcare property investor ASX-listed Home Consortium, says its HomeCo spin-off now has increased its health-related portfolio to $1.4 billion.

AUGUST

Estia Health reveals it achieved a respectable 94% bed occupancy outside of COVID-19-hit Victoria, yet made just $1 million profit before the one off top-up of Federal Government ‘temporary funding and grants’ of $21 million.

The Federal Department of Health delivers on its promise to start publishing the vaccination rates of workers at individual aged care homes in a bid to increase vaccination levels before the 17 September deadline for a mandatory first dose.

One of Australia’s largest aged care operators Bupa divests four more homes, this time in regional NSW to Uniting NSW.ACT, which has 70 aged care homes.

Three of the aged care peaks – Anglicare Australia, Leading Age Services Australia and UnitingCare Australia – unite to express their disappointment that the Federal Government has so far failed to consult with the sector over critical reforms resulting from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

In issue 12 of SATURDAY, we talk to Twilight Aged Care Board Chair Lorraine Lovitt (pictured), and CEO Neil Wendt about the role of the board in preventing staff burnout at all levels.

The Federal Government surprises the sector, delivering double the number of promised residential aged care places in its final Aged Care Approvals Rounds (ACAR) – and private operators are the major winners.

SEPTEMBER

After a lengthy delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the results of the 2020 Aged Care Workforce Census are finally released by the Department of Health – and they showcase the challenges facing residential care providers.

Regis Healthcare delivers a $138 million EBITDA result in FY21 despite an average occupancy of just 88.9% and staff expenses accounting for 74.3% of revenue.

Mark Carnegie’s M.H. Carnegie & Co joins the legal action by Justin Laboo’s Catalyst Health REIT seeking $12.39 million plus interest and costs over the failed aged care operator PresCare, owned by the Presbyterian Church of Queensland.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt introduces the second stage of the Government’s reforms in response to the Royal Commission recommendations, with more funding but more regulation, red tape and the threat of penalties on the way.

Arcare hires a new general manager for its home care division, which has been rebranded to BodeWell Community Care.

Signature Care Founder and CEO Graeme Croft is among the many operators spending well above the average on food who say the $10 supplement will simply come off a marginal bottom line.

OCTOBER

This month marks one year since the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety concluded its final hearing.

Over half of residential aged care operators are forecast to still be making losses in FY2021-22 and FY2022-23 as COVID-19 subsidies wear off, according to StewartBrown’s latest 2020-2021 Aged Care Financial Performance Survey.

Hall & Prior CEO Graeme Prior (pictured), who owns and operates 30 RACS in WA and NSW, warns of a period of consolidation in the sector and that investors have to accept long-term lower returns as compliance costs rise.

Victorian-based Menarock Life, which is owned by Deloitte Private’s former Chief Operating Officer Craig Holland, puts its business up for sale through wealth management group Ord Minnett.

The Australian Aged Care Collaboration, the aged care sector’s peak bodies, forms a Steering Committee and commissions KPMG to conduct analysis on the best model for sector representation, putting the idea of a single peak body back on the cards.

NOVEMBER

The Swedish global investment firm EQT acquires a minority stake in the Brisbane-based home care provider Five Good Friends and its digital care management platform, The Lookout Way, in a deal that values the group at $60 million.

17 prominent Australians are appointed to the new National Aged Care Advisory Council, which will guide the implementation of the Federal Government’s $17.7 billion aged care reforms – led by a former Victorian Shadow Minister for Ageing and Carers, Andrea Coote. COTA CEO Ian Yates is also announced as the Chair of its new Council of Elders.

A group of 12 providers, led by RFBI CEO Frank Price, warns the Government that providers will be unable to meet shifts – let alone the new 200 direct care minutes requirement – within the next 18 months unless drastic action is taken to increase wages, incentivise nurses and carers and bring foreign workers into the Australian aged care system.

Natasha Chadwick (pictured), the founder and CEO of NewDirection Care, proves yet again why she is the original aged care innovator, with plans for a new integrated model of care.

An Ansell Strategic case study on the merger of Not For Profits Acacia Living and Bolton Clarke reveals it signifies the emergence of another critical trend that will change the face of the industry – the merging of the charitable sector.

The Federal Government accepts all 38 recommendations from its independent review into residential aged care COVID-19 outbreaks in 2020.

DECEMBER

The 2020-2021 Report on the Operation of the Aged Care Act is released by the Government – and occupancy in residential aged care has dropped from a “catastrophic” 88.3% in June 2020 to a record low of 86.9% as of 30 June this year.

The number of residential care operators also falls from 845 to 830 operators over the past year.

Our Viability issue of SATURDAY discusses why a user pays system remains the only sensible solution for funding the future aged care system, as the Baby Boomers blow out the costs of services.

There are currently a number of consultation papers on various Government reforms related to the Royal Commission outcomes due to the Department of Health by the end of December – but many providers would be unaware they are there, says Community Vision CEO Michelle Jenkins.

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