St Vincent’s Care Services is seeing the pandemic as an opportunity to improve its business and help its transformation to a more profitable organisation, its head of customer service tells an online sustainability forum.

Australian Ageing Agenda’s inaugural online event RECOVERY 2020 features insights and learnings from leading aged care industry organisations working with providers on the frontline.

Among them is aged care consultancy and technology provider Mirus Australia, which has been working with St Vincent’s Care Services, a provider of aged care services in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

James Price, co-founder of Mirus Australia, says the two organisations embarked on a program this year to drive financial sustainability and profitability at SVCS with a number of facets.

“We started off with funding and then we quickly turned to the other part of the revenue equation. The revenue equation for us is your daily funding is your rate and then your occupancy is your volume,” Mr Price tells the forum.

While many organisations have taken a risk averse approach through COVID by taking fewer admissions, SVCS is taking a different approach, Mr Price says.

SVCS executive general manager of consumer experience Prue Densley says the pandemic has caused the organisation to question everything it does.

Prue Densley

“For us at St Vincent’s, we saw COVID as an opportunity and not a threat,” Ms Densley tells the forum.

“We have embraced this pandemic in that there’s nothing like a crisis to make you question everything that you do. Given that everything was up for grabs, we have embraced the opportunity to drop stuff that is not working and trial things that are.”

In regards to new admissions, Ms Densley says SVCS paused to catch breath at the beginning of COVID like other providers. However, from both sustainability and mission perspectives, she says they couldn’t pause for long.

“We have tried to look at ways we can push the occupancy challenge that everybody has,” she says.

In response, Ms Densely says they have rolled out training with staff and realigned the admissions team into a central function with realistic goals to reduce anyone feeling overwhelmed, given it is unknown when the COVID pandemic is going to end.

“We have united the team on some short term goals that we can all focus on,” she says. “We have said here are your targets we are all going to work on until the end of September and then we are going to reassess then.”

Ms Densley also provides insights into how SVCS is focusing on storytelling and communication, and a rapid digitisation to help maintain its brand position and conversations with customers during the pandemic.

Projects moving again

From left: Recovery 2020 presenters Greg O’Loan and James Price with forum facilitiator Keryn Curtis

Elsewhere at the forum, Greg O’Loan, who is regional vice president of Epicor, a provider of aged care software, says he and his team has observed an aged care sector in “a state of flux” over the last six months.

“The rapid changing nature of the pandemic has caused delays in decision making. It has caused prioritisation on the fly. And obviously key prioritisation is the health and wellbeing of their staff and their clients,” Mr O’Loan tells the forum.

He says at the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of projects were at a standstill as organisations rushed to work out how to move to a working-from-home model. However, projects are now continuing to go ahead, even during the second wave of the pandemic in Victoria, Mr O’Loan says.

“We are still engaging with people and projects are still moving on. People have learned ‘okay we have been through this before, we now know what we need to do’.”

Funding is critical

Kane Draper, a senior client partner at aged care consultants Health Generation points others to the providers who are agile and flexible in their nature whether they are a single facility operator or a national outfit.

“[They] recognise that their key responsibility is in delivering that care going forward and seeking help,” Mr Draper tells the forum.

Kane Draper

Being able to put a hand up and seek help such as for quality and compliance or the funding model is key because it is important to remain safe at these times, he says.

“Safety means having the employees in there to provide that ongoing care for the clients’ health. That comes at a cost so if there is not that injection of funding coming in the door how can you confidently say you are keeping the clients safe?”

The good news is that the funding is there, says Mr Draper, who contradicts those complaining that the government in not providing enough funding to the industry.

“The simple fact is the funding is there, the funding is available and there is a bit of scare tactics with a lot of providers thinking I don’t want to access it or push the line and get that critical funding that I need because there is a chance that it might get taken away,” he says.

“Funding is critical at these times in order to support the organisation and to sustain your organisation into the future.”

RECOVERY 2020 includes key learnings for providers for now and in the future.

The event, which took place on 12 August, has been relased online today.                            

Register to watch a video of RECOVERY 2020 here.

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