Helping Hand’s Chris Stewart warns COVID-19 will force sector consolidation, but stand-alone operators say funding – not scale – required to provide care

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The CEO – who heads up the nine aged care homes, six retirement villages plus 6,000 community clients in SA – says consolidation is on the cards as operators feel the pinch both financially and operationally in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Boards are very attuned to their responsibilities and personal accountability,” he said.

“As a Not For Profit provider, we exist to support vulnerable older people and if we can do this on a larger scale and more efficiently then that is a good thing.”

However, Chris concedes there are roadblocks, with many larger operators unwilling to take on poorly performing organisations.

“What board is going to consider taking on an organisation that is really struggling unless you’ve got those benefits of scale that can move it from struggling to breaking even?” he asked.

“But building scale offers the opportunity to build systems that helps an organisation to keeping on doing what they are doing and fulfil their mission.”

But not all agree. Darryl Chapman (pictured), the CEO of Akooramak, a provider with a 98-bed aged care home plus home care services at Warwick in southeast Queensland, says that size does not always equal quality care.

“Aged care is not just about the balance sheet and economies of scale,” he said.

“There is something to be said for organisations where the CEO and DON know every staff member, resident, client, and family member by name. While we struggle financially, that is not from poor management, but significant Government underfunding.”

“Funny how this sector is virtually outperforming in this current global crisis with bugger all additional help – you actually have to have a confirmed case to get any significant help and then only after you have exhausted what little you have – and is subject to an unbelievable burden of legislation, punitive assessment and a Royal Commission.”

There are no doubts many stand-alone operators provide very good care.

But with the Aged Care Minister Senator Richard Colbeck failing to commit to a $1.5 billion rescue package proposed by the peaks – and no Budget due until September – how many providers will be forced to consider partnering with another organisation before then?