Like many organisations, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety forced Southern Cross Care to take a good hard look at itself, its services and its failings.
Now, with the final report handed down including 148 recommendations, chief executive Robyn Boyd said it presented an opportunity to transform the sector.
However, she said consistent negativity playing out in the media is having devastating impacts on the morale of staff. She also says the aged care sector as a whole has been unfairly tarred by the same brush.
"I stand by the care and service we provide within Southern Cross Care," she said.
"I have made it my business to go round and meet the teams, the residents, have contact at a site level, and I am really proud of the quality of the service we provide. We can always do better in everything we do, so we do have an emphasis on continuous improvement.
"For me, it's about understanding what our residents would like for us and how we provide that as best we can."
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According to Ms Boyd, this is particularly true for Glenara Lakes, which has been at the fore of public scrutiny for some time. In January 2019, the Youngtown facility was subject to a serious risk decision, after failing to meet seven outcomes in accreditation standards.
Four of these failings were found to have placed the safety, health or wellbeing of residents in its care at serious risk.
By March 2019, it was found to have met all 44 expected quality outcomes.
In November that year, it was thrust back into the spotlight as part of the Tasmanian hearings for the royal commission.
Over five days, the decisions of SCC management and how this could have impacted the health outcomes of its residents was laid bare.
This included testimonies from former staff detailing a culture of blame and a lack of leadership.
Most recently, Glenara Lakes made headlines with union accusations of service cuts and redundancies - claims all denied by SCC management.
Last month, its facility manager was also stood down in the wake of harassment claims. An independent investigation into the claims is now underway, with an interim facility manager appointed.
However Ms Boyd, who took on the role as SCC's chief executive in March last year, is standing by the care and service provided at the 88-bed residential aged care facility. While acknowledging the findings of the royal commission, she said there were positives to come out of it as well.
"I 100 per cent acknowledge that there have been some incidences where things haven't gone well and there have been cases of neglect and abuse, but it's not broad brush," she said.
"It shouldn't be seen as that is the sector - that's what the sector stands for. But I get a sense that that's how the community views it.
"The royal commission is a positive approach towards the transformation of the sector. So I think those conversations and those cases had to be heard in order for us to understand what needs to be done, to improve the sector more broadly, as a whole."
Ms Boyd took on her role with SCC after more than 13 years in aged care with Goodwin Aged Care Services in the ACT, replacing former chief executive Richard Sadek who retired from the position after 45 years.
While based in Hobart, Ms Boyd said she frequently travelled across the state visiting the organisation's nine residential facilities - including Glenara Lakes.
Along with a visit this week, Ms Boyd said she was also there immediately after the former manager was stood down, to provide support and reassurances to staff, residents and their families.
But between the findings of the royal commission and recent news headlines, she said workplace morale had taken "quite a beating".
"[From] the conversations I've had with staff has been them feeling that they haven't been acknowledged. That there's a sense that the role they play is a negative one, as opposed to a positive one. That they are seen to be the problem, as opposed to part of the solution for providing care to elderly frail aged people," she said.
"They feel demoralised and unrecognised. The work they do is so important and they work really hard. They really are the lifeblood of the organisation, but our residents rely on them every day and they're here and they provide care and support to the best of their ability."
Ms Boyd said the negative spotlight was also having an impact on the retention and recruitment of staff. Amid union claims that more than 30 staff had left Glenara Lakes since February last year, she said the scrutiny had taken a toll.
"The turnover of staff ... I will suggest that some of that is as the result of that low morale and negative stereotyping of residential aged care," she said.
"There is definitely a sense of people questioning if they have chosen the right career. There's a sense of 'if things don't change, can we continue on? Is this sustainable?'
"There is a struggle to attract nurses into aged care and also care staff. So, yes it's having an impact and I think again it goes back to that acknowledgement to the contribution these staff make to the community more broadly and how important it is to get it right."
The outcomes of the royal commission were handed down earlier this month, more than two years after it was launched and following more than 10,500 submissions.
It found one in three aged care residents in Australia had suffered substandard care, while up to 18 per cent of residents have been either physically or sexually assaulted while in care.
It concluded the sector had been mismanaged and misunderstood by successive governments, and called for sweeping reforms. Among the key findings were recommendations for a rights-based system, including a new Aged Care Act to underpin reforms, as well as a Medicare-style aged care levy.
Ms Boyd said with the report now handed down, there was an opportunity to look at the sector as a whole, alongside community expectations, and what support is needed from the government to move aged care forward.
"We are definitely underfunded - there are no secrets there. We've had multiple reviews ... yet the majority of the recommendations don't get picked up. So I feel like we are on this merry go round. We need guarantees as a sector that those recommendations will be picked up, and that the sector has more support from government," she said.
"There is something like 64 regional providers running at an operating loss, and it's not sustainable. So, it's very difficult to have increased legislation, increased expectation with increased cost, with reduced revenue.It's a recipe for disaster and that needs to be acknowledged."
The federal government has already committed $452 million to help address issues in the sector, with cabinet now considering the report's recommendations ahead of an expected major overhaul of funding in the May federal budget.
While Ms Boyd said SCC had implemented a range of new measures aimed at strengthening compliance and performance, she said there was always more to be done - including building stronger relationships with the community.
"There needs to be more collaboration between external stakeholders, families and resident representatives then there currently is, to ensure we get it right," she said.
"The opportunity the royal commission provides us in transforming age care into something that meets the needs and expectations of everyone - It's a highlight for the whole sector. It's something we have been waiting a long time for."
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