Aged care executives need to keep abreast of the Royal Commission as a matter of good governance, a conference has heard.
Klaus Zimmermann, non-executive director and deputy chair of Hesta, said during a panel session at the Governance in Aged Care Conference in Sydney on Wednesday that the aged care royal commission care was a watershed for the sector, just as it had been for the banking industry.
“It’s important for you as leaders in the industry to follow the proceedings … talk about them within your network, discuss it at board level, discuss it with management” Mr Zimmermann said.
“Follow what the peaks are doing, the unions, and others. But keep an open mind, don’t be defensive. Don’t wait till the end of the Royal Commission before you make changes.
“The question I want to pose to you is, have you asked yourself what you are doing as an organisation?”
Mr Zimmermann said industry and individuals had a collective responsibility to ensure the royal commission brought positive change to governance practices.
“Things do go wrong, despite the best leadership, despite the best policy, despite the best procedures,” he said. “But it’s how you deal with it. And that’s where the CEO and the board and the executive management really have to step up, he said.
The Royal Commission also needed to hear the good news stories from the industry and individuals, he said. Providers shouldn’t just rely on industry bodies to make representations but could help by making voluntary submissions themselves.
Triggering the insurance clause
Mr Zimmermann said he had been surprised to hear Commissioner Lynelle Briggs say during an earlier hearing in January that 50 per cent of providers had failed to meet the reporting deadline to provide information to the commission.
He said there was anecdotal advice that some providers had deliberately failed to provide information on time so they would be compelled to do so.
This would trigger inurances clauses, which meant they would be able to recover costs, he said.
“I hope it wasn’t the CEO saying ‘you’re not putting it in’,” Mr Zimmermann said.
This had ultimately reflectled badly on the industry, and failures of governance lay at the heart, he said.
‘It always comes back to the board’
Anglicare Australia Executive Director Kasy Chambers said Anglicare had been involved with three previous royal commissions – into institutional abuse of children, the banking sector and the Dondale Youth Detention Centre.
Experience had taught shown that commissioners took the approach that ‘the fish always rots from the head’, she said.
“It always came back to management, no matter what happened on the ground … it actually came back to the board members and the leadership and the executives.”
A Royal Commission was not a “fair process” like a court case, she said. If a resident of staff member had told their story it would have already been minutely scrutinised, and there was no point disputing it.
“If you are caught, if you are called up, don’t fight it. Don’t get defensive,” she said.
“Royal Commissions like it when you learn on the way through. So don’t wait till the end, don’t wait for that final report. Have a look at what you’re doing on the way through.
“What they’re interested in is that you as as leaders can understand and see the cutting edge practice, the up to date knowledge, and that your policies and practices pick up on that.”