The royal commission and the pandemic have not stemmed the pipeline of aged care developments but they could have a lasting impact on how care is delivered.
The uncertainty around the pandemic and anticipated report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety is yet to dampen the sector’s appetite for new developments.
In the past year, SwanCare opened its Ningana facility in May, Hall & Prior welcomed residents to Karingal Green in the same month and Residency by Dillons opened its specialised women’s aged care residence with 24 beds in December.
In 2021, Aegis Aged Care Group is planning to open its 238-bed North Coogee facility in February, cementing its place as Western Australia’s largest aged care provider with more than 3,000 beds, according to Business News’ Data & Insights.
Brightwater Care Group, ranked as the ninth largest provider, is building a $40 million development in Inglewood, which will include 128 beds, a research centre and a new corporate headquarters.
Roshana Care Group recently announced it had lodged an application for a $24 million, 120-bed aged care home in Victoria Park and is also planning a $21 million, 120-bed facility in Lesmurdie.
Masonic Care WA chief executive Marie-Louise MacDonald said there was still a demand for aged care beds in WA, because there was a period of time during the mining boom when providers could not afford to build.
“There are a number of people who have had it in their planning but it just wasn’t affordable. But it is now, the price is right,” Ms MacDonald told Business News.
“The ageing population is a tsunami, regardless of whether we are having a big migration in WA, we still have a large older population who are continuing to age.
“There is not enough capacity in the existing care sector to look after them.”
Masonic Care WA is building a $200 million facility in Middle Swan which incorporates 124 residential aged care beds, 180 retirement living homes and between 60 and 80 social housing units on the one campus.
Ms MacDonald said the build was supposed to begin in April last year but it was suspended because of COVID-19.
The board was advised to wait until 2021, but economic conditions and the state’s low case numbers enabled the build to start in December.
“However, because of the circumstances in WA, the good price point, good cost of money for borrowing and with COVID under reasonable control, the board decided to kick it back into gear,” Ms MacDonald said.
The delay gave Masonic Care the chance to review plans for the buildings and ensure they would be well-equipped for future outbreaks or pandemics.
“When COVID hit, because we have a nursing home in Ferndale, we found out what we needed,” Ms MacDonald said.
“We found we needed to have more hand basins for hygiene in different locations.
“We needed to build facilities so if staff needed to be isolated in an area, we could isolate a whole area rather than isolate the whole nursing home.”
The team redesigned amenities to enable staff to get PPE (personal protection equipment) on and off without wearing it through the facility and moved the staff cafeteria out of the building.
Curtin Heritage Living, which is building a $140 million project called Waterfront Cottesloe with 128 residential aged care beds and 75 retirement living apartments, was also able to adapt its building plans to ensure residents could stay safe in a pandemic.
Chief executive David Cox said the plans were redesigned slightly so houses, or sections of the facility, could be isolated.
It also limited open plan offices, is building smaller team offices throughout the facility, and using thermal cameras at the entrance to detect visitors with a fever.
Curtin Heritage Living’s Waterfront Cottesloe development will include a cinema and an art gallery.
While the royal commission findings might bring big changes when they are released on February 26, it has not stopped aged care providers from continuing to build.
However, Mr Cox said he was hoping the outcomes from the commission might influence the regulations dictating how care was provided.
“In the past, we have always been constrained by the quality standards and things like that and it’s not an excuse not to do things, but you are constrained by what they say you have to do,” Mr Cox told Business News.
“People don’t want to move into an 18-square metre room and receive standardised services, people genuinely want to have freedoms, they want to have different service models.
“Some people want to receive care in their homes, some people want to be in an apartment with six other people and receive care and we can’t do that under the existing legislation, it’s either home care or its nursing home care and there are so many other things we can actually do.
“I’m hoping the royal commission will get us to look at those models and examine those models because there is plenty of them that work really well overseas, particularly in Northern Europe.”
“We are trying to do things really differently in that residents have very private mini apartments, some of them aren’t so mini, and we are using a whole lot of technology to make sure residents are safe rather than having them open plan and exposed and in quite noisy environments,” Mr Cox said.
Marine Views, the residential aged care part of the facility, is divided into eight smaller households, each with a kitchen and living areas.
The facility includes a restaurant, day spa, cinema, art gallery and museum, some of which can be accessed by the public.
Mr Cox said that because the site had heritage significance and was leased from the government, the organisation believed the community should be able to access the property.
Community access also enabled older and younger people from the community to mix, creating new stimulus for residents and also giving the organisation a chance to show people what aged care could look like in a casual setting, he said.
“We want to show people that what we do is actually good and aged care isn’t scary,” Mr Cox said.
“You hear horrible things from the royal commission and that’s not us.
“You are not going to get people walking up to a nursing home, so if we can say, ‘come to our arts centre and by the way, you have actually just entered a nursing home’, then we think that will be a really good way to educate people.”
“The royal commission findings will have an impact on the style of aged care homes being built in the future,” Mr How told Business News.
“Aged care homes going forward will more than likely be less than 60 beds each in size.
“We will be going to that smaller, community-style development going forward, as opposed to a 100-bed aged care home.”
“You don’t want to be designing new services and products that don’t capture what’s coming up; the expectations from consumers, governments having a much bigger hand in the regulatory framework, bigger capital flow; it’s a really exciting time to be in health,” Mr Prior told Business News.
Mr Prior said Hall & Prior’s projects – the $100 million Woodside Health and Ageing Precinct and $80 million Kelmscott Health and Aged Care Community – embodied this sentiment and were designed for the future needs of aged care residents.