30/05/2013 - 16:43

Brightwater plans for home stay

30/05/2013 - 16:43


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Brightwater plans for home stay
PLANNING: Penny Flett says Brightwater is expanding its in-home care services in preparation for future need. Photo: Brightwater

The ageing population brings both challenges and opportunities for Brightwater Care Group.

Brightwater Care Group chief executive Penny Flett is acutely aware of the pressures that will come with caring for the vast tide of baby boomers approaching retirement age.

As a member of that cohort herself, Dr Flett is well placed to assess the unique challenges of providing care for a generation accustomed to independence.

"We're the first consumer generation; we've got our own view about how things should work," Dr Flett told Business News.

"The old system is not going to be adequate or appropriate or acceptable to this up-and-coming generation.

"It's not going to work for financial and public purse reasons – the country won't be able to afford it – and for the fact that people aren't going to accept it as the only way to go."

For many providers in the aged care sector, growing costs and changing demands are likely to necessitate a far greater focus towards in-home, rather than residential, care.

The Gillard government plans to boost the number of subsidised home support packages from 60,000 to 100,000 over the next five years, with legislation set to go before the parliament in coming weeks.

While Brightwater remains among the largest aged care providers in Western Australia, with 779 beds across 13 residential facilities, Dr Flett said the group had deliberately expanded its in-home care services in recent years as it prepared to support a new generation of clients.

"It's a heck of a lot cheaper for government to pay service providers to put services in people's homes than it is to fund service providers to build," she said.

"That's one of the reasons services at home are going to expand enormously, as well as the fact that people don't really want to leave home.

"We're going to have to reserve what is now residential aged care for highly specialised services, because having them available for people who can't manage at home for a variety of reasons which aren't highly specialised just isn't going to wash anymore."

From a local perspective, the high costs of building and operating facilities make in-home care an attractive proposition for Brightwater.

The federal government's aged care funding arrangements do not recognise differences between the states, putting particular pressure on providers in states with high costs.

As a not-for-profit group, Brightwater is heavily dependent on federal government funding for its day-to-day operations.

Dr Flett said 60 to 70 per cent of the government funding Brightwater received was spent on wages, taking out a substantial chunk of the capital needed to build new facilities.

The state's high wages growth also puts a significant strain on attracting and retaining staff, prompting Brightwater to invest in training its workforce wherever possible.

"Brightwater puts as much investment as we have spare dollars for into training and development and we upskill our care workers so that they can do a lot more than ever was done in the past," Dr Flett said.

While Brightwater has made its name as an aged care provider, it has also invested substantially in providing disability care for younger people.

The disability care group has 138 beds across nine facilities, including community houses for patients with acquired brain injuries and Huntington's Disease.

A key focus for Brightwater of late has been the $20 million redevelopment of its Oats Street rehabilitation facility in East Victoria Park, scheduled for completion in December.

Once finished, the facility will cater for 43 residential clients, whose rehabilitation process typically takes two years.

WA chief scientist Lyn Beazley and the Rotary Club of Southern Districts have also provided major donations to establish a PhD scholarship program to aid research into brain recovery.

"We will have the ability to take more people there and that's pretty exciting," Dr Flett said.

"We're building up the capability to do some serious research."



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