Jeni Christensen, procurement manager at VMCH, answers our questions on aged care procurement.

AAA: What are the main areas you procure and are responsible for?

Jeni Christensen: I have two procurement specialists in my team and together we cover a large number of areas across the business. In residential aged care, we provide procurement services and advice to our 12 aged care residences on areas including food, medical equipment, mobility and continence aids, general and medical consumables, janitorial, chemicals, stationery, linen, and electrical goods. 

Jeni Christensen

My mantra is to help support the individual residences to buy better and smarter with increased procurement power through aggregated agreements. We also support procurement of some goods and services across our disability, accommodation, early learning and therapy, respite, specialist education, and retirement living businesses. 

We assist our property team as required on fixtures, fittings and equipment for our major projects. We also manage 150 vehicles across VMCH. My team also manages the tendering of new and outsourced services including cleaning, physiotherapy, pharmacy, waste management and other allied services.

What number of facilities, residents and staff is within your procurement remit?

VMCH provides early learning, specialist education, disability services, affordable homes, residential aged care, retirement living and at-home aged care to more than 7,600 people across Victoria. Our 12 aged care residences require the biggest spend, however we support all areas of the business as required.

In 2018, for example, we managed the tender process and outsourcing of the student transport for our specialist education school. I continue to manage our relationship with our service provider to enable the school to deliver safe, cost-effective and compliant school transport. I have also managed tenders for external audit, print management, labour hire and consumables. But procurement touches all parts of the organisation and adds benefit by driving better value for money.

Which areas of operations do you outsource and which are covered in-house?

Our team manages all goods and services except those related to property and ICT across residential aged care and other business areas as required. VMCH is a hybrid in-house and outsourced model for some services, such as cleaning, physiotherapy and allied health, but we are moving to more of an insourcing model,  particularly across residential aged care.  

What are the key procurement challenges your organisation is facing?

Procurement maturity throughout the industry is varied and VMCH has embraced being on the procurement journey together. We need to strengthen our systems and processes to drive more sustainable and environmental choices, particularly with the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act 2018 and associated reporting requirements.

The COVID-19 climate has further caused increased risk for procurement and supply chains with challenges through shortages of masks, hand sanitiser, gowns and other personal protective equipment for frontline staff.  Our procurement team have done well in this regard by working with suppliers to ensure we have back orders and stock as it becomes available.

What strategies do you use to address these challenges?

I developed our procurement strategy in 2017 and we are still implementing some aspects of the systems. The implementation of Procure 2 Pay and other technologies has ensured robust processes and good governance.

VMCH has also done a body of work on modern slavery and we have reached out to our top 50 suppliers to ensure we manage supply chain risk and ethically choose who we do business with. I have been involved in the management of these risks through our compliance portal. I aim to provide further advice around how we can report with transparency on potential risks within our own supply chain.  

How do you use technology to assist with procurement?

Technology has been especially useful in analysing our procurement activities and highlighting the areas where we can drive most value. This includes the development of spend map analysis and reporting of further opportunities for aggregation and simplification of suppliers. 

We have also increased our use of technology with a tendering portal to enable online submission and evaluation of tenders plus supplier induction and compliance portals.

In 2020 also commenced the roll-out of a Procure 2 Pay solution that automates stages of our procurement process.

Where and how do you achieve efficiencies?

I believe the biggest efficiencies will be achieved through the reduction of the number of suppliers and contractors and through rationalisation of agreements, while implementing the “buy better buy smarter together” methodologies. This can be challenging with different business areas, but there are also many opportunities.

The Procure 2 Pay solution we are implementing also has punch-out capability to supplier enterprise portals and the ability to automate invoices. It is early days, but this should provide significant benefits to the whole business, including the streamlining of supplier payments.

Do you have any tips for your counterparts?

Now more than ever, let’s band together across procurement and supply chain professional networks and across the industry to share great procurement stories. Don’t go it alone, let’s share our successes and the good news – not just COVID-19 statistics.

In terms of modern slavery, I have joined other global procurement leaders on the Social Responsibility Alliance. They have many free resources at socialresponsibilityalliance.org/development-committee

I also read a quote yesterday which resonated with me. “Our happiness lies in the happiness of other people.  Give them their happiness and you will get your own happiness.”

That sums up residential aged care in a nutshell.

If you have an aged care procurement story to tell, get in touch at editorial@australianageingagenda.com.au

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