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Providers told to set up ‘war room’ as royal commission looms


Aged care providers have been advised to begin setting up their “war rooms” in preparation for the royal commission.

Peter Weldon, who was appointed First State Super’s program director for the ongoing banking royal commission, provided delegates at a key aged care industry conference with some firsthand insights into what may lie ahead for them.

Describing the financial services royal commission as the “nuclear option”, he told delegates at the LASA congress in Adelaide on Monday that First State Super took a “project approach” in its response to the inquiry.

This involved setting up a seven-member steering committee and appointing him as the full time program director.

Sean Rooney

Sean Rooney

“We were advised to set up a ‘war room’, which we did,” he said. “It was a central space in the building from which you could conduct ‘operations’.

Mr Weldon added he didn’t think the organisation’s approach was quite as aggressive as a ‘war room’ might suggest but he says the term stuck.

“It was a dedicated space where we had TV screens, video conference facilities, webcasting facilities, white boards, lockup filing cabinets.

“I was based there permanently, and we had all our meetings there.”

‘Tens of thousands of documents’

He said the committee had to trawl through “tens of thousands of documents” including data bases, personal emails, risk registers and complaints registers.

First State Super also had to respond to additional demands. “You get maybe a couple of weeks to supply maybe hundreds or thousands of additional documents,” he said.

One of the more onerous demands was for information to form the basis of a case study, including preparing a witness to appear.

That request related to a business First State Super had bought which was under different management at the time.

“We were given thirteen days to produce what ultimately amounted to a 160 page statement with about 300 supporting documents,” he said. “It was all hands on deck for those two weeks”.

Victor Harcourt, Principal at  Russell Kennedy Lawyers, likened a royal commission to “a coronial inquest on steroids” and anticipated that, like its banking equivalent, it would be very much a political process which could have a “ripple effect” throughout the sector.

Time to start preparing ‘war room’

“Internally, I suggest that you could start setting up your own version of the war room ,” he said.

“That could look like setting up your own team in the organisation that is focused on the aged care royal commission’s terms of reference, but which starts that process now.

“You’ll need to make some decisions about who’ll lead the team, whether it’s purely internal, you’ll have decisions to make about engaging with lawyers and other consultants.

“You certainly need to make some early decisions about who’s going to be the leader of that team, and also the spokesperson and possibly the person giving evidence.

“You’ll also need to ensure you’ve got the processes in relation to the war room and the team set up including document management.”

Uncharted waters

LASA CEO Sean Rooney, who had earlier flagged in his CEO’s address the likely challenges a royal commission could throw up for the industry, said the aged care sector remained in a “holding pattern” until the inquiry got under way.

“What we’re witnessing is the intersection of having to deal with an aged care system that hasn’t kept pace with the needs and expectations of an ageing population.

“We don’t know where this is going to go because this is uncharted waters.”

However, it represented an opportunity to build a culture of respect for older Australians, regain trust and put in place a sustainable and high-performing aged care sector, he said.

Read more from the LASA Congress here.

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7 Responses to Providers told to set up ‘war room’ as royal commission looms

  1. Age Care Worker October 30, 2018 at 4:07 pm #

    For too long private Aged Care Providers have made large profits from the people in their facilities and now that a Royal Commission is going to look at the sector they are running scared.

    If you have nothing to hide why do you need a war room and dedicated staff to deal with the Royal Commission?

  2. Henry J Hannigan October 30, 2018 at 4:57 pm #

    Operators need to hold their ground on a decent profit margin. However in turn, Operators must agree to Minimum staffing levels and an INDEPENDANT (ACCC type) NO-NOTICE inspection system. Bottom line; Operators get fair, agreed upon ROI for providing QUALITY care to the Elderly. If some fail in providing care discovered by true no-notice inspections, their ROI will be severely damaged thru fines, even closures.

    The goal is to have Operators getting a decent return for providing quality care to the Elderly.

    A model standard Nursing Home could be developed to determine ROI/staffing levels etc.. Deviation tables could be developed from the standard model depending on Nursing Home populations.

    Data from other Countries could be collected to help with this effort.

  3. Dr Ralph Hampson October 31, 2018 at 1:48 pm #

    Why must we use war metaphors in this situation. If we start from defended places there will be little opportunity for creativity and new ideas – which I fear is what will happen! Open, honest and transparent enquiry would be better!

  4. anton hutchinson November 1, 2018 at 11:38 am #

    Talk about war rooms and the like create a negativity that the industry can well do without and I trust as an Approved Provider we will be given the courtesy of assessors of the Royal Commission that for the most part the industry is not evil.

    Ive said countless times that I am staggered by the ignorance and lack of well informed comments that are all over the place. The aged care industry has been screaming at the Government for five years to fix the problems that their changes have created. People should know by now that every facet of aged care is already controlled by the government. They tell us who can own and operate,they tell us where we can build or expand, they give us guidelines and rules and if we make a mistake they penalise or impose sanctions, they tell us what we can charge a resident…to the cent…. really, what is the expected outcome of the Royal Commission?

  5. Carmen Verne November 1, 2018 at 11:51 am #

    If you need a War room and lawyers to deal with the Royal Commission it looks like you have a real problem. You can expect to be grilled thoroughly . The purpose of the Royal Commission will be to create transparency around aged care and providers. There is nowhere to hide if you have not provided decent care. Going forward we can only hope that the aged will be able to access quality care that respects them and their needs.

  6. Bridgette Pace November 4, 2018 at 12:30 am #

    I agree with Dr.Hampton.

    The object of the exercise is to identify a problem and then find a solution.

    “War room” – really?

    People are suffering – this is not a game.

  7. MARY VINEY January 7, 2019 at 3:09 pm #

    Overall care in Nursing Homes is a situation that requires more staff than currently being allocated.
    Another item is over-medicating of people who don’t know what they are taking or what. If unable to comprehend then their NoK or family needs a written statement of what is being provided.
    I know a friend of mine kept pace with her mother’s medications but with a battle with the doctor and staff.

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