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physical and mental wellbeing of the client and their quality of life."
SCC is also expanding its offerings to the more vulnerable
people in the community -- such as those who are homeless or in
temporary housing to find them secure accommodation.
As one of the biggest providers of residential care in country
areas, the expansion of home care packages makes a lot of sense
for the growth of SCC. As well as establishing a broader range of
services and benefits to clients, McMahon says the expansion of
Home Care, reinforced by CDC, brings economic benefits to rural
areas through new job opportunities.
NEW SITE NUMBERS GROWING FAST
The long-term demand for home care has resulted in SCC recently
opening four new home care sites in metropolitan Sydney covering
Northern Sydney, Penrith, Liverpool, Campbelltown and Fairfield as
well as regional NSW in Lake Macquarie and the Central Coast.
Sites opened earlier include Casino, Tweed Heads, Parkes
and Deniliquin, in addition to the eastern suburbs in Sydney and
Western Sydney. This allows SCC to better meet the strong demand
for quality services that it is seeing in these locations, says acting
general manager Leesa Potter.
"CDC is obviously on all our minds and we have initiated a
broad and ambitious marketing plan to ensure we con
advance under the new funding model by providing hi
personalised care to our customers, which is the hallm
organisation," Potter says. A brand awareness campaig
redesigned website will form part of the marketing initi
Potter emphasises that the organisation remains com
to supporting its rural customers and communities, and
with other providers to deliver a cooperative network of
across regional areas. "Because the geographical demand
unique, servicing regional and remote locations, some h
of kilometres away from our offices presents significant c
from a time and cost perspective."
ears Southern Cross Care (SCC) has been a major
residential care in Australia with 30 sites across
Wales and the ACT, 20 of which are located in
perates 10 Home Care sites across NSW and
f services comprising Home Care packages and
er the Commonwealth Home Support Program, in
and day therapy services.
ential aged care clients and 1,000 residents in
the organisation operates from a solid base as it
o the home care market.
community needs, our future plans include
hrough acquisitions and new services," says chief
strategy in place to grow our home care services,
opolitan and rural communities, but in our
s well," he says.
ans is developing and implementing client-directed
Mahon says is a priority for the organisation.
This strategy intends to build on services
so older people can live life to the full,
whatever their limitations. "The SCC vision
statement is to offer people something they
can look forward to. It is all about delivering
services around the needs and preferences
of the older person living at home."
This vision is underpinned by the current
reforms in aged care, as CDC gives clients
greater autonomy and flexibility about their
care, says McMahon.
Meanwhile the organisation's long-
established pastoral care program is being
rolled out to home care clients as an add-on
to existing services. "We help clients with
issues that might be a concern from feeling
isolated or depressed to a fear of going into
an aged care facility. It all comes down to the
ocus on delivering services around the needs and preferences of the
son living at home, and with a particular emphasis on rural and remote
ovision, Southern Cross Care NSW & ACT is undergoing a period of
rowth. KYMBERLY MARTIN reports.
to the full
Sue McKe ch nie,
Regional Assessment Service organisations reflect on the early implementation
of reforms to home support assessment, the initial challenges encountered and
recommendations for strengthening the system. LINDA BELARDI reports.
Short implementation timeframes,
backlogs created at the My Aged
Care contact centre and technical
issues have tested the early rollout of the
My Aged Care Regional Assessment Service.
In its first three months of operation,
the My Aged Care gateway issued around
40,000 referrals to the RAS for entry to the
Commonwealth Home Support Program.
Of t his, 5,000 referrals for home support
asses sment were issued in July, 19,000 in
August and 1 6 , 000 in Septem ber, as the
flow of r e ferrals picked up pa ce following
i ni t ial delays.
The introduction of the RAS across
multiple states from 1 July was a significant
implementation challenge for the
Department of Social Services, says Jennene
Buckley, chief executive officer of Feros Care,
which operates a RAS across 15 regions in
New South Wales and Queensland.
"Trying to ensure all referral agencies
were informed, Regional Assessment
Services were trained and operational,
information systems were ready and the
My Aged Care contact centre operationally
ready was almost an impossible feat."
In hindsight, Buckley says, a large-scale,
even statewide, pilot to test its operation
"would have been smart", but may not have
been an option due to the short timeframes
of the reform agenda.
"The first few weeks post 1 July were
hectic for everyone. Problems were
encountered in resourcing of the My Aged
Care contact centre, which impacted on
all stakeholders. The contact centre was
flooded and there were bottlenecks and
backlogs that took some weeks to sort out."
Speaking with Community Care Review in
late October, Buckley says the department
acted quickly to identify issues and worked
with the 13 RAS providers and the My
Aged Care gateway, to rectify the urgent
matters, fix technical glitches and improve
processes. "However we are still not out of
the woods yet as the backlog processing
moves through the chain from My Aged
Care to the RAS providers," she says.
To help clear the significant backlog of
inbound referrals that developed in July and
August, the department increased staffing
at the contact centres and redirected
unscreened referrals straight to RAS
providers for assessment.
SOME BIG 'UNKNOWNS'
In setting up a new system, B uckley says
her organisation faced many 'unk nowns',
such as trying to predict the volume of
incoming referra ls. In la t e October, some of
the 15 regions in which Feros operate s were
well over projected v ol umes, while others
were just reac hi ng 50 per cent of e stimated
referral a ctivity.
Sue McKechnie, Resth a ven's ex e cutive
manager of communit y servic e s, a So uth
Au stralian RAS contractor, says that a s a
new bu siness model , govern m e nt and
R AS organi sations were operating f rom
a s e t of assumptions that are only now
She says the rollout of the RAS
represents large-scale, complex reform
which is dependent on several elements
coming together to make the system
"There has been an awful lot of goodwill
on the part of all players to get to where we
are," she says.
"There are still technical issues with the
My Aged Care software that the department
is continually working on, and there remain
some things that cause frustration on a day-
to-day basis, but some of the major issues
have been addressed and government
continues to advise of a program of work to
keep improving things."
In a sign of improvement, the number of
referrals for a RAS assessment has jumped
from 585 a week in July to 4,560 a
week at the end of September.
Ken Johnson, program manager
for the RAS at Community Options
Australia, which operates in NSW
and ACT, says while the end-to-end
process is by and large working,
there are challenges at every step.
He says problems have been
experienced with missing and
incorrect service provider information
on My Aged Care, important information
being omitted from contact centre referrals
and duplicate referrals being sent to both
the RAS and an ACAT.
Technical challenges including issues
with the My Aged Care assessor app
and providers not being able to view an
assessment and support plan completed by
a RAS have also slowed down the process.
These system challenges have distracted
from a concentrated focus on wellness
and reablement as part of the assessment
process, he told the Active Ageing
Conference in late October.
"The RAS is one cog in a greater system
and the success of the changes is not only
reliant on regional assessment services, but
all stakeholders within the system -- from
government to the client -- and clients have
to be educated about the process."
Further complicating the rollout has been
the accuracy of service provider information
on the My Aged Care website and the
readiness of providers to receive referrals.
The department reported that at 28
September, just 39 per cent of providers
were ready to receive referrals through My
Aged Care. Among larger providers the
situation was better, with 64 per cent set-up
to receive referrals, but the numbers are
lower than expected.
McKechnie says the process in place for
providers is complex and the government
may have underestimated the level of
support required by providers to activate
their services on the My Aged Care portal.
"One of the many assumptions is that all
providers are operating in the electronic world.
There is no doubt that many large providers
are, but a number of small rural and remote
providers, and even some metropolitan
providers, have not necessarily been in a fully-
geared electronic environment," she says.
To get around existing issues with the
accuracy of service finder information,
assessors from Queensland RAS provider
Suncare Community Services are calling up
a client's shortlisted providers to confirm
service information, availability and fee
structure at the time of assessment.
"It's not an easy process for a service
provider to list and manage their services,
it requires constant diligence on the part
of providers," says Richard Johnson, chief
operations manager at Suncare, which
operates a RAS in six regions in Queensland.
Buckley says as part of the early
implementation of the RAS, assessors have
been providing a significant amount of short-
term case management (linkage services) to
clients as service provider information is still
missing from the service finder, and search
functions are being refined.
"This means RAS providers have spent
additional time making sure that clients are
getting linked to the services and service
providers of their choice."
McKechnie says it's too early to tell if this
higher than expected level of short-term case
management will be an ongoing feature of the
system, but workloads should improve when
there is enhanced capacity within My Aged
Care to manage multiple service referrals.
At the moment, she says Resthaven's
assessors are involved in family conferencing,
liaison with hospitals and GPs, and linking
with short-term emergency services.
A RURAL AND REGIONAL
There are a dditional challenges facing
ru r a l and remote organisations in the
delivery of the R AS, says Dr Deb S elway,
integ r a t edliving Australia's rese ar ch and
project manager, wh ich is a subcontracto r
to APM in 11 regions in Queensland,
Ta smania and S outh Australia.
"It's not uncommon for assessors to travel
large distances such as 1,400 kilometres a
fortnight to be able to service some regional
areas," she says. "The anticipated two hours
of doing an assessment is not feasible."
Dr Selway recommends the government
undertake a review of RAS travel costings
in collaboration with service providers and
subcontractors to ensure equity
of service delivery to rural and
R e co gnisi ng that s e rvice choice
is limited in rural areas, Dr Selway
s a ys ofte n an assessor's o nly opt ion
is to refer to their own service a rm.
"RA S asses so rs are very aware of
potential con flicts of interest but
w hen there are no service option s,
re ferring to your own agenc y should
no t be seen as detrimental .
"We need to trust that RAS assessors
are working ethically and morally and that
client choice is paramount for them."
McKechnie says one of the most significant
challenges in the new system is the
management of multiple service referrals.
The My Aged Care software was originally
designed on the basis that CHSP clients
would only be accessing one service type at
a time, which she describes as "the biggest
limitation" in the software at the moment.
While CHSP guidelines have been refined
to reflect the possibility that some clients
will require a referral for multiple service
types, the software does not enable the easy
management of these referrals to a single
provider to avoid fragmented service delivery.
Other areas for improvement include
ensuring that all supplementary information
that accompanies a referral to My Aged Care,
from a hospital or GP, for example, is passed
on to the RAS and service provider in a timely
manner, says McKechnie.
B uckley says it is impo rtan t that
there is a "co-design approach" to the
next major phase of de vel opment of the
My Aged Care portals, including user
acceptan ce testing proce sse s.
Richard Johnson says one of the benefits of
the RAS tender has been the opportunity to
strengthen partnerships with other service
providers in a region.
Suncare is supported by six subcontractors
including Diversicare, Vision Australia and the
Indigenous Wellbeing Centre to deliver the
RAS to a diverse range of clients, which allows
Suncare to leverage off the skills and expertise
of its specialist partners.
Feros Care says its RAS assessors
are using collaborative forums such as
enterprise social networking service
Yammer to share experiences, information
and ask questions, which is proving to be a
powerful capacity building strategy among
its geographically dispersed teams. n
start to RAS rollout
aaa community care review | 11
10 | NOVEMBER 2015
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