Aged care reform being met: Harbourside Haven

CARING: Harbourside Haven CEO Sheree Gemmell in the newly refurbished nursing home courtyard in Shoal Bay.
CARING: Harbourside Haven CEO Sheree Gemmell in the newly refurbished nursing home courtyard in Shoal Bay.

While the aged care industry tries to come to terms with the fallout of royal commission revelations of malpractice and resident neglect, operators are working diligently to win back the community's trust in expectation of tough new regulations.

The Port Stephens Veterans & Citizens Aged Care, also known as Harbourside Haven, has 203 aged care beds across two sites at Shoal Bay and Fingal Bay, including a dementia specific wing. The company employs around 320 staff, the majority being from the Port Stephens region.

Like other aged care operators, Harbourside, says its board chairman Gerry Mohan and CEO Sheree Gemmell, is facing huge challenges at it works to win back the trust of the people. One advantage Harbourside has is that it is a not-for-profit organisation with no shareholders.

"The interim report handed down by the royal commission last October was quite blunt in regard to the quality of care and the standard of the workforce," Ms Gemmell said.

"We are facing tough times ahead... one of the many challenges for the industry as a whole is to upskill its workforce. We have moved quickly in this area by entering into a pilot training program for nursing staff, starting in February, to be conducted over seven months. We see that taking control of our own training as having many long term benefits."

Mr Mohan was equally reassuring, expressing a confidence in the company's mission that had stood the test of time (almost 40 years) "providing affordable living for Port Stephens families with the highest quality care".

"We have just completed the refurbishment of all rooms in the nursing home, as part of a $4 million redevelopment at Shoal Bay," Mr Mohan said.

"All our rooms now have en suites, air conditioning, well positioned nursing stations, spacious courtyards where families can spend valuable time with their loved ones, onsite activities with dedicated and sympathetic trained staff and a caring team of local volunteers.

"All of our staff are paid full entitlements under their enterprise agreement and the vast majority are local residents.

"Because we are not-for-profit, we don't pay dividends to shareholders and all of our profits are returned to our facilities, which allows us to continue to provide affordable independent living to residents of Port Stephens, as well as home care packages for the aged and frail within the local community."

Mr Mohan said that due to the major construction work on the nursing home, beds had to be closed to avoid interruption to residents, staff and volunteers.

"Also during that period we had to limit the number of new residents. But we are now back in business and families are being invited to come and view our care facilities. We as a company are local, we invest in the Port community and whatever profits made remain within our community."

Last October's interim report findings found that the aged care system was in need of fundamental reform and redesign, including the provision of more home care packages to reduce waiting lists; and a "need for a better trained workforce including attraction and retention; education and training; choosing the right staff; remuneration and careers; continuity of care; staffing levels and staff mix; and leadership".

The royal commission has received 5000 submissions from aged care consumers, families, carers, workers, health professionals and providers. The final report is due on November 12, 2020.