A time for growth

With extra services places available once again in the recent ACAR, family-owned aged care provider Innovative Care is going ahead with ambitious expansion plans.

Above: Graeme Croft, CEO of Innovative Care

Innovative Care moved to execute contracts of sale this week on four new greenfields sites for a combined value of $6.5 million, where it plans to build 300 of the 545 new aged care beds it was awarded in the most recent Aged Care Approvals Round (ACAR), enjoying the renewed availability of extra service places, without which many residential aged care facilities would not be built.

The balance of 245 places will be accommodated in developments on sites already owned by the company, some of which are already under construction with all due for completion no later than 2013, according to a statement released this week.

Graeme Croft, CEO of Innovative Care, said the four new sites in Cairns, Traralgon, Echuca and the ACT would include high and low level care places, respite care, and “possibly day care for the elderly”. 

Since 2006 the family-owned aged care provider has built 860 new aged care places across Australia and plans to keep building, with 1,135 places scheduled to be operational by 2012, and 1,675 places by 2014.

Innovative Care has a comprehensive in-house design and development capability through sister company, Croft Developments, which directly employs architects, project managers, and site managers. Its most recent 90-bed facility in Bairnsdale, Victoria, completed in December 2011, achieved the maximum of 25 points for fire safety under certification.

The company centrally manages its aged care facilities, with a focus on using IT in all elements of care planning and financial management, according to the statement, and operates on a freehold basis retaining all assets on the balance sheet.

“Whilst some organisations had sought to grow by acquisition of existing aged care providers, many of those assets with four bedded rooms would need replacement, meaning organisations sometimes paid an expensive price over the longer term,” Mr Croft said.

“Innovative’s construction capabilities had allowed it to design and construct efficient new buildings offering single rooms and ensuites with the latest in fire protection systems, and spacious lounge rooms, and dining experience where residents can choose their own meals from servery kitchens”.  

The expanding provider’s residential aged care model includes approximately 33 per cent low care and 33 per cent high care extra service, which allow accommodation bonds to be charged, meaning that the remaining 34 per cent of beds can be occupied by commonwealth-supported high care residents.

Its chief executive said it was not viable to build new aged care facilities without access to accommodation bonds as they in turn allow pensioners to be accommodated in single rooms with ensuites. 

According to ACAR consultant James Underwood, extra service high care places are a necessary inclusion in most new residential aged care developments for this reason.  

Mr Underwood believes that a freeze put on extra service approvals by the Department of Health and Ageing in the 2009 and 2010 ACARs had a delayed effect, causing a building slump in the 2010-11 financial year with only 2,553 new beds being built – well short of the 4,557 built the preceding year.

Mr Croft also added his voice to a growing chorus of calls to mandate fire sprinklers in all aged care buildings by December 2012, a recurring issue thrust back into the spotlight after the tragic Quakers Hill nursing home fire in November.

In addition, he would like to see regulations requiring a maximum of two residents per bedroom with ensuite by December 2016, and allowing providers offering single bedrooms with ensuites to charge accommodation bonds, where resident assets tests permit. 

Commonwealth certification should not be required for new aged care facilities that achieve a Certificate of Occupancy under the Building Code of Australia, Class 9C, he added.

Tags: acar, bed-licences, building, construction, development, expansion, fire,

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