Government’s timeline on Royal Commission reforms driving CEO exodus – but DoH says pace won’t slow down

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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, CEOs say.

Senior Australians and Aged Services Minister, Senator Richard Colbeck recently rubbished claims by 25 peak bodies that he is not consulting about the proposed new Aged Care Act.

Consultations are published on the Department of Health’s Consultation Hub.

Yet Community Vision CEO Michelle Jenkins (pictured right) says many providers would likely be unaware of the volume of consultations that are currently being done, or be taking part in the discussions.

CEOs exiting the sector

Michelle says the timeframe for the Government to deliver the Royal Commission’s reforms is fast-paced and putting unrealistic pressure on providers that have been working at an extremely high level throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This pressure is causing many to exit.

“I know at least four CEOs that have already announced their retirements, and there are more considering leaving organisations in the next six months. Staff are saying, ‘I’m tired, I’ve had enough’ – and there is no one else stepping up. In WA, we are seeing more executives being brought in from Melbourne and Sydney than we are seeing step up in WA, because you can get more money in the mines, and you have less responsibility and much less change. We have been dealing with change for 10 years!”

In the long-term, this fast pace of change will not help the sector to get to where it needs to be, says Michelle. Providers need time to catch a breath and catch up, or the reforms will not offer a realistic outcome for consumers, who are for the most part unaware of what is ahead, she added.

“We have six months before we start another transition, and that, with the funding constraints, lack of staff and COVID-19 requirements, is a challenge.

“There are still people at the centre of this process – and we can’t lose the person in all this – but we also can’t deliver on reforms that are unrealistic. I wonder how much of what we’re trying to do is realistic, and how much of it is aspirational?

“I accept that the Royal Commission gave us a path and the Commonwealth needs to address and deliver on that, but it also needs to ensure that providers are ready for the change and resourced, and many are a long way off. Even now, some are pulling out of services. With a shortage of workers, the sector does not have the ability to meet the demand it is creating, which creates an even bigger strain on service providers.

“Providers are willing to change and work with the Commonwealth to create a better outcome, but they don’t have the resources to keep pace.”

However, the Department has indicated that they intend to stick to this timeframe for reform delivery by July 2023.

The Department’s Deputy Secretary Michael Lye told a Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee on 9 November:

“There is a culture here where providers of all kinds have been in control of this care sector. They expect to be running the show but they’re not going to run the show.

“In terms of culture, we have a real problem here that we’re trying to address, where the consumers’ interests have been subordinate to the interests of these providers.

“I understand they’ll have a go on this and they want to be told everything and they want to control the pace of reform, but we’ve got a very clear set of riding instructions from the Royal Commission and also the Government, which has accepted the Royal Commission’s recommendations, that we need to change things about the sector.”

Will this result in a further loss of IP from the sector – and who will bridge the gap?