Council has published the agenda for next Tuesday night’s Special Council Meeting. The recommendation is to ‘sell’ by proceeding with the Expression of Interest process. What a surprise!

Issues invoked by the submissions are ostensibly ‘answered’. For example:

  • On the lack of community consultation, we are told: Officers have set out in this report the communication and consultation process conducted which included extensive advertising and opportunities to discuss the sale issues. The process undertaken also meets the statutory requirements for the sale of Land as outlined in the Local Government Act. Thus, no explanation, no apology, no justification as to why community consultation was not undertaken prior to any decision!
  • On whether the new owner will provide the same quality of care, we are told: Officers note in this report some of the constraints that are likely to impact on the future provision of quality care in Glen Eira’s aged care service. Officers are aware of many other aged care providers that provide quality at an equivalent or higher level than Council’s current service. Council’s commitment is that Council will only sell to a quality aged care provider that has a proven ability to provide quality aged care with high employee and resident satisfaction levels. In short, a regurgitation of previous generalities.
  • On the impact on current aged care residents, we are told: Officers are mindful of the potential impact on residents during this process. Council has committed to keep all 173 beds within the municipality and any new provider will be required to uphold the current residency agreement. Impact on residents can in part be mitigated by a strong transition process and the selection of a quality provider. In addition the option for staff to remain with the new provider may also assist in ensuring continuity of care. We note the lack of ‘guarantee’ on future staffing, nor how many current staff will be employed by the new owner. Also not a word about any new residency agreements.
  • On potential Royal Commission findings, we are told: Officers consider that while it is likely that the Royal Commission will publically identify poor performers, the quality of a rigorous assessment processes will ultimately provide Council with sufficient information to make a sound selection decision. Literally an incredible statement given that council has no idea what the findings will be and how these findings may impact on all providers!
  • On loss of community amenity and ownership, we are told: Officers are aware of the range of community views in regard to Public or Private ownership of many services. Officers note, however, that many submitters assume that Council will sell to a ‘for profit’ provider, however, many aged care providers are not for profit providers. The assessment panel will assess each provider against a comprehensive set of assessment criteria and choose the provider that most closely meets the criteria.The problem with this answer is that one single not for profit provider will not be able to afford to purchase all three facilities. That means that at least one, if not two, and probably all three, will go to those private FOR PROFIT businesses!
  • On including a ‘resident representative’ on the sale process, we are told: Officers have discussed with legal and probity advisors the potential of having a family or resident involved in the process or on the evaluation panel. Advice provided is that this will give rise to probity and conflict of interest concerns. This says it all, despite the possibility of including resident ‘expertise’ prior to the finalisation of the detailed assessment criteria. In other words, no resident in on selection and worse still, no ‘detailed assessment criteria’ still exists. If this isn’t putting the cart before the horse, we don’t know what is!

Following this attempted response/rebuttal to issues raised in the various submissions we get a long diatribe on current conditions in aged care. We are informed that:

  • Aged care will become increasingly more ‘complex’
  • There will be increased ‘scrutiny and regulation’ so only larger and ‘highly specialised’ carers can cope mainly because they have ‘economies of scale’.
  • Another ‘reason’ why council can’t continue is that they don’t have an aged care board or specialist aged care finance staff to assist in management and governance arrangements. Perhaps council could answer how an ‘aged care finance staff’ is different to the systems and financial oversight that currently runs open space levies for example? In addition council has risk management policies, fraud policies, etc.etc. How have they managed for 40 years? Besides, maybe if council wasn’t so top heavy with ‘directors’ and the public relations staff, then more staff could be hired in those areas that residents consider vital?

Basically we’re told that council doesn’t have this and doesn’t have that. Plus extraordinary claims are made for existing ‘specialist’ private providers such as: Many areas of research in palliative care including conducting translational research projects to embed evidence into practice, including the development of sophisticated pain guidelines, anxiety and depression pathways and advanced care planning. Of course not one such provider is mentioned and neither is the fact that dementia care research is, to the best of our knowledge, not the current or primary function of our three facilities.

Nor do the financial stats provided tell even half the story. It is significant that this section of the report is a bare 2 sentences and the figure of a $1.88 million loss in 2017/18 is only the tip of the iceberg, since this figure EXCLUDES on costs such as corporate overheads. Nor does it tally with the Annual Report where a loss of $3.1 million was cited. Our belief remains that the sell off is nothing more than a cash grab.

If as certain councillors have argued, no decision has as yet been made, then why have legal and commercial firms already been appointed?

Finally, the listed criteria is a hodge podge of jargon and generalities. Residents still do not have a clue as to what these conditions will be, nor in fact, the real reasons behind the decision to sell.

In the end we still have no answers to the following:

  • What guarantee can council give that all staff who want to remain will be able to do so?
  • What guarantee can council give that in 5 or 10 years time these properties will not be turned into apartments?
  • Will the criteria and the tender offers be made public?
  • How much of the sale monies will go into general revenue and how much will actually be spent on the ‘disadvantaged’ in our society?
  • And the most crucial question: Why can’t the community decide whether or not it wants to subsidise aged care? When other councils now include resident juries in determining budget priorities, Glen Eira remains determined to exclude and ignore the community as much as possible.

We urge everyone to read this document since it encapsulates everything that is awry in Glen Eira.