“We can help with models of care, build systems and bring experience,” he says. “We can help it leap frog some of the experiences we’ve had to revise later down the track.”
The CEO of the South Australian industry organisation, formed as a result of members breaking away from a national aggregate, believes people need to have an understanding of the diverse number of roles and opportunities in aged care and contribution it makes to the economy.
“Approximately 1.5 people are employed per residential place, and 2.5 per home care place based on some figures,” he says. “Aged care accounts for over 1 percent of Australia’s total GDP, and in SA it’s 1.5 percent – this is a very significant industry.”
Mr Westernberg points out 1 in 20 South Australian workers are employed in aged care. “We need a strategy – workers in this sector should be respected, appreciated and their dedication should be acknowledged,” he says “For many, they are driven by desire to help vulnerable people.”
He explains many of ACIA’s members feel South Australia’s issues are unique. “We’ve got the oldest population of mainland states and the state is the largest provider of aged care,” he says. ACIA has over 60 members, consisting of around 80 per cent private:20 per cent not for profit members. “We’ve got NFP, smaller and large multi-state providers so have a perspective across the whole gamut,” Mr Westenburg confirms.
Since its formation nearly a year ago, he says the organisation has been providing member support through training and seminars and working with Federal MPs and State Government. “We are also part of the national conversation,” he says, pointing out ACIA has submitted opinions on national papers, accreditation reforms and the February 27 changes.
Training in particular is one area ACIA is focusing on with the organisation looking at new avenues to equip the sector in a more deregulated environment.
With elder abuse in care homes once again in the spotlight following the issues raised at the Oakden facility in South Australia, Mr Westenberg points out people need reminding this is primarily a mental health unit which has people who are aged in it. “The care needs there aren’t indicative of the usual person in aged care and we don’t support elder abuse in any way,” he says.
In SA there are approximately 18,000 residential aged care places with each person receiving approximately 10 hour ‘care moments’ each day, 365 days of the year.
“The number of complaints was under 500 and not all were complaints about services and not all were strictly problematic complaints,” he says.
“Oakden is not representative of the aged care sector and we are keen to see staff educated and trained to spot signs of abuse before it becomes a crucial point. We are also looking forward to what course of action the SA Parliamentary Enquiry will take."