The CEO of Bupa Australia and New Zealand, Hisham El-Ansary has faced off with host Leigh Sales during a tense interview last Thursday, apologising “unreservedly” for incidents of poor care in some of its 72 homes – but denying cutting back on staff.
Recent ABC media reports have centred on the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC)’s finding that 45 of Bupa’s homes had failed to meet accreditation standards and 22 had a serious risk decision made against them.
Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck declined to be interviewed by 7.30, but released a statement saying that the Department of Health was meeting weekly with Bupa to resolve its compliance issues.
Ms Sales was aggressive in her questioning from the start of the seven-minute interview.
“In this space, Bupa has one job – to look after your clients in a caring way that protects their dignity,” she stated. “Why have you frequently been incapable of doing that?”
“We’ve fallen short of standards”
Mr El-Ansary – who moved from Chief Financial and Strategy Officer to CEO in April – appeared to take a conciliatory tone.
“Well, clearly, Leigh, from the story that you’ve just outlined, the incidences of care are totally unacceptable, and I want to unreservedly apologise to those residents and their families,” he said.
“We’ve forensically gone through all of our processes and systems and made sure that we’re putting in place those things that will remediate the areas where we’ve fallen short of standards.”
The CEO put these failures down to staffing and the difficulty of recruiting, particularly in regional and rural areas.
“We know that having a good general manager in the home is an important indicator of quality outcomes,” he said.
“Very committed to ensuring that we’ve got the staff we need”
Ms Sales didn’t accept this argument, pointing out Bupa made a $560 million profit in Australia last year.
“If you pay them well out of your large profits, then it wouldn’t be as hard?” she pushed.
“I don’t think it’s just an issue of pay,” Mr El-Ansary responded.
“We know that in other sectors, it’s hard to attract doctors and dentists and nurses into country and regional areas and we’re very committed to ensuring that we’ve got the staff we need, who are well-trained and focused on delivering quality care to our residents.”
Mr El-Ansary added they have been increasing both their staff numbers and training.
The 7.30 host compared the CEO’s apology to those made by the Catholic Church and the Australian cricket team.
“I’m paid to sit here and ask you what a reasonable, fair-minded person watching at home might want to ask you, the kind of person that would put their mum or dad in one of your facilities,” Ms Sales said.
All homes to meet standards within next couple of months, CEO promises
“I suspect that kind of person might think, when they hear an answer like, “I’m sorry and we’ve made changes,” variations of which they’ve heard from bank bosses, insurance companies, financial advisers, the Catholic Church, even the Australian cricket team, is that they are fed up to the back teeth with powerful people in institutions who promise to do one thing, then do another, and then when called on it, sit here and say, “Oh, I’m sorry, we’re making some changes.”
But despite Ms Sales’ prodding, the CEO maintained his composure.
“I think that is a fair comment, Leigh, and what I would say in response is the changes are evident by outcomes in my view, and your online story today reported that we’ve had 45 homes out of our 72 that were falling short of standards and what I can say to you is that, as we sit here today, we have 18,” he said.
Mr El-Ansary says he is committed to having all their homes meeting standards within the next couple of months, adding he has 9,000 staff coming to work every day looking to do a good job.
The company already seems to be taking steps towards this.
A report today revealed Bupa’s Aged Care Managing Director Suzanne Dvorak has pledged snap visits to some of its facilities with Oakden whistle-blower Stewart Johnston.