Change is constant. Resistance is futile! Luckily Australia’s aged care sector is united in the call for regime change.  Gaddafi must go, but so too must a national aged care system that impedes innovation, pits providers against regulators and, ultimately, reduces the long term sustainability of essential aged care services.

However, while change is constant, it is not homogeneous in its impact. The welcome recommendations of the Productivity Commission will affect providers in different ways. Our response to the commission’s draft report focuses on the communication risks that, if they escalate, may lead to the closure of important community based providers with invaluable local connections.

The Productivity Commission Caring for Older Australians Inquiry released its draft report in January 2011. The report identified a number of sound options to simplify and improve Australia’s aged care system and was well received by the majority of the aged care industry. The industry was given the opportunity to comment on the Commission’s draft report by submitting a response submission.

At Ellis Jones, we believe that changes steering the a more ‘free market’ model promise benefits as competition between aged care providers drives service innovation and choice, leading to an improvement in service delivery over time. However, giving residents more choice and increasing competition between facilities will have short to medium term negative impacts on providers and communities.

In our submission, we highlight the fact that many smaller aged care providers do not have the resources needed to effectively respond to resident, family, staff and community enquiries or market their facilities. They will face financial costs with preparing and adapting to the new system and may find it too hard to compete with the majors, possibly facing closure. Smaller aged care providers are extremely important to the communities in which they operate as they hold invaluable links to community groups, have strong embodied local knowledge and provide specialist services such as dementia care which are sometimes avoided by profit focused companies.

The Australian Seniors Gateway Agency and Australian Aged Care Regulation Commission are clearly required; however aged care providers are the ones likely to receive the bulk of resident, community and family enquiries. Our experience is that many providers, including some of the larger non-profit organisations, do not have well structured and staffed communication functions, and, even when they do, often the focus is on fundraising and not on customer service and community education.

We believe that if the Commission’s recommendations are adopted by the government, it must recognise the need for extra resourcing and training of provider personnel, supported by a targeted public education campaign, during the implementation stages.

Our submission aims to highlight the impacts of recommendations put forward by the Productivity Commission from a marketing and communications perspective. It includes recommended resourcing needs to ensure a smooth transition period for aged care providers, government and residents.

Ellis Jones specialises in developing creative and effective marketing and communications campaigns for the health and ageing industry. Find out more about Ellis Jones’ approach to health and aged care marketing here.

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