Forget Gordon Gecko – it’s just good sense

Aged Care Queensland’s CEO, Nick Ryan, has weighed in on the industry association merger debate with a newcomer’s perspective

Above: Nick Ryan, CEO Aged care Queensland Inc.

By Keryn Curtis

Aged Care Queensland’s (ACQ) Chief Executive, Nick Ryan, has stepped up to defend the recent PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report, commissioned by Aged and Community Care Victoria (ACCV) and ACQ, ‘Is the sum greater than its parts? The value of a single industry aged care association’.

Mr Ryan says the report, which has attracted a range of responses, both positive and negative, has already achieved one of its central aims.

“The report is achieving one of its aims by encouraging debate. With so much change going on this year – the major changes in government policy and the changes in leadership in the two national bodies – with so much change going on, it is healthy to have strong debate.  

“Debate highlights differences and through discussion of those differences, you can find a new way forward.  The aim of the PwC report is not to compel anyone to act in a particular way, but to encourage aged care providers to actively consider the issues,” said Mr Ryan. 

Mr Ryan referred to several of the comments which have appeared in AAA’s news reports – both as quoted comments to a journalist and comments made via the AAA website.  One commentator, he says, feels the report was intended to push ACSA members toward amalgamation at a time when ACSA’s own future structure is still being decided.

“The timing is deliberate but the intention is quite opposite to that – the PwC report aims to encourage active debate around the issues: what should a strong national and effective association consist of? We thought the report would assist ACSA survey respondents to gain a better understanding of the principles and issues and even ACSA has acknowledged that in its national report just before its survey was sent to members,” Mr Ryan said.

“In the ACSA national report, it says: “The survey is an important part of the process to define and implement the most appropriate structure to meet the challenges facing our sector now and well into the future. All members are encouraged to read the background material and complete the survey. […] Research undertaken by ACQ and ACCV adds to the debate on the structure for the future’”.

Rural and remote concerns

Responding ‘with interest’ to an online comment concerned about a negative effect a merged for-profit and not-for-profit association would have on rural and remote aged care services, including the loss of a ‘rural voice’, Mr Ryan pointed to his own state of Queensland.

“Queensland is the most decentralised mainland state with providers operating in some of the most remote locations in the country. So, importantly, Queensland providers are interested in an aged care association that can provide national strength but still enable strong regional diversity and flexibility.  

“We echo some of those concerns; that’s one of the reasons why in Queensland – for those who are familiar with the two models put forward in the report – there is greater support for the ‘federated model’ because it provides that flexibility more easily for rural and regional providers. 

Having said that, he added, no one model on its own will be able to achieve all the objectives. “One that has good processes, a healthy culture and active participation for all its members is more likely to encourage the best outcomes”.

As CEO of an already ‘merged’ state association, Mr Ryan believes the ‘not-for-profit versus for-profit’ issue is not an obstructive barrier to a successful alliance.

“The for-profit/not-for-profit issue is not alive in any divisive sense in either Queensland or Victoria.  The emphasis for the association is on quality. I’m a newcomer to this industry but I am familiar with the childcare sector and have an education and health policy background too.  I know the for-profit/not-for-profit issue is not important in childcare.  It is more of an issue in the education sector but that still doesn’t mean there isn’t unanimity in providing for quality education.

“We have to see it as a constructive difference, not a divisive difference,” he said.

Control and representation

Mr Ryan said failed to understand comments suggesting a financial interest in a merger for certain private providers.

“I find those comments curious and unclear. They suggest certain motives are in place.  The report is in no way motivated by any particular self interest other than the common industry interest.”

Mr Ryan did however emphasis that sound structures and good governance were imperative in any merged organisation.

“One way or another the industry needs to arrange itself more effectively and that would include addressing governance structures. How might individual members’ voices be heard?

“How would voting be organised?  Some states currently operate on one person, one vote, regardless of the number of beds or the services they represent. In Queensland, votes are proportionate to the size of the organisation.  This is a valid discussion but it is not driven by financial interests.

“There persists this mythical Gordon Gecko in aged care but he doesn’t exist,” Mr Ryan said.

Tags: accv, acq, acsa, aged-and-community-care-victoria, aged-and-community-services-association, aged-care, aged-care-association-australia, aged-care-queensland, is-the-sum-greater-than-its-parts, nick-ryan, pricewaterhousecoopers, the-value-of-a-single-industry,

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