I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land the Wiradjuri people and pay my respects to their Elders, both past and present.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Residents, Staff Members and Citizens of Lithgow,
My name is Stephen Lesslie and I am the Chair of Lithgow Aged Care, better known as Cooinda and Tanderra. Late on Thursday 11 February 2021, Lithgow Aged Care was informed by the Aged Care Quality & Safety Commission of its decision not to re-accredit our service. We will appeal the decision.
We, the Board, believe the Commission’s decision is unjust, arbitrary and fails to take into account the improvements that have been put in place since the new Board took over in late November 2020. But should this decision stand and we fail to be re-accredited then this facility will close and our residents will have to move. Seventy three people currently call this place their home. Over a hundred and twenty members of staff will lose their jobs.
The trauma involved in this will be devastating.
We have residents who have lived here for over twenty years. They will be forced to move away, away from family, away from friends and away from this community.
In the meantime we will carry on. The health and wellbeing of our residents is our primary concern. I have asked our consultants, Health Generation, to continue developing procedures and implementing change.
Let me detail the Commission’s approach.
The Commission knew that the service was struggling because in 2019 they put Lithgow Aged Care under sanctions and required the service to employ an administrator. The administrator appointed had to be approved by the Commission.
There was an inspection in March 2020, in July and another in October and it was obvious that there was still a problem. But where was the oversight? Where was the help? Where was the advice? Where was the expertise that the Commission must have, to help and guide us to meet all the required standards. Nowhere!
The members of the association, however, knew there was a problem in the governance of the facility and at the AGM voted to substantially change the Board. I was elected Chair on the 30 November 2020.
Since the AGM we have been under siege. Assessment contacts have been made on 4 December, 5 December, 15 December, 24 December (Christmas Eve), 27 December (in the middle of the long week-end) 5 January 2021 and 12-15 January 2021. Three assessments in the preceding nine months when help was sorely needed, and then seven in seven weeks just causing disruption.
Arising from the inspection and audit of the 12-15 January 2021 the Commission determined that the facility had failed to meet 38 of the 42 standards.
In response to this the Board submitted a comprehensive self-assessment that when implemented will address all the standards not met. Some of the findings are trivial - the retaining wall behind this building is not rotten and it does retain its structural integrity but it is true we did not get a structural engineer at great expense, to confirm this.
Four residents, the Commission calls them consumers, and eight family representatives were interviewed by the inspectors - their negative comments were selectively chosen and taken out of context. We have 73 residents. We don’t however, deny that many of the failures are serious.
Changing the culture of an organisation is not easy. Old habits and attitudes will resurface. We know this also. Changes need to be inculcated into the culture and processes of the facility. Had the Commission inspectors been here last week they would have seen in process training sessions for all staff in what is expected of the standard that states that all residents must be treated with dignity and respect. It is hard to get staff to stop calling some of their favourites Darl or Love. It is also true that if one of our residents says they were called Darl by a staff member then it is taken as being true by the inspectors and immediately we fail another requirement.
Our self-assessment of the Commission’s 12-15 January audit and inspection was submitted on 5 February 2021. The decision not to re-accredit was made on 10 February 2021 – three working days later.
Strangely though, since 15 January 2021 there have been no visits from Aged Care Commission inspectors. They have not observed the changes that have been implemented and the procedures and culture that is changing. The letter from the Commission states that they took our response into account. I don’t believe it. I doubt that they even read it and they cannot have assessed changes that have taken place since the 15 January 2021 because they haven’t been here. Seven visits in seven weeks and then nothing for a month when it was needed to assess our progress.
There can be only one reason for this speed. The decision had already been made and all the inspections were simply window dressing.
Procedural fairness is a basic principle that is fundamental to the administration of justice and this decision should be overturned because procedural fairness has not been observed.
All through this saga there has been a continuing theme coming from the Commission and the Department of Health. What are your plans for closing down? and Have you found a buyer?
Let me tell you what a buyer will do. As vacancies become available here at Lithgow Aged Care they will be filled with people from the affluent suburbs of North Western Sydney.
The Board was even advised that the facility would be more attractive to potential buyers as a “closed site” – that is, one with no residents.
Pensioners from Lithgow will be excluded. What is the price of an average house in Lithgow compared to the price in Dural or Pennant Hills?
It is my belief that the hidden agenda in all of this is to get rid of all community based health care facilities and to replace them with ones run by billionaire investors.
The Board is seeking legal advice on how to proceed. We have not been awarded procedural fairness and we would like to appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal which is independent of the Aged Care Commission and it makes decisions based on merit.
We will be talking to Lithgow Council seeking their support. I acknowledge the presence here of our Mayor Cr Ray Thompson and Deputy Mayor Wayne McAndrew.
I have an apology from our Federal Member Andrew Gee as Parliament is sitting today. He did visit us here on Friday night and we had a full and frank discussion about the consequences of this decision. I understand he has issued his own statement.
I want to thank the Board for its support. Every Board member is a volunteer. They are here because they want to help people, to help our community and our City. They will look back on this and think “that had to be one of the worst times in my life” – but they stuck to it and their support of myself and the management team has been overwhelming.
I want to thank the staff – the care staff – the ancillary staff – the maintenance crew. They have all been under such pressure. After every hit they have rallied. Everyone here loves our residents. Even the Commission knows this – we get with every Commission report the comment that the “staff are kind, and caring.” The saddest part of this is how our residents are being treated. Their health both physical and mental will be severely compromised. Why hasn’t the Commission asked the residents, “the consumers” - “Do you want to move away from Lithgow to Sydney or to the Central Coast?”
The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has failed its own Standards. Requirement 1(3)(c) Each Consumer is supported to exercise choice and independence, including to: (i) make decisions about their own care and the way care and services are delivered (ii) make decisions about when family, friends, carers or others should be involved in their care: and (iii) communicate their decisions;
The Commission has failed all three of these requirements – All of our residents can make their own decisions, or have guardians who can, yet none have been asked. Surely where one lives has to be considered sufficiently important.
My judgement of this standard - Non-compliant The Commission’s decision to not re-accredit is wrong, just plain wrong, and it has to be reversed.
Stephen Lesslie Chair Lithgow Aged Care 15 February 2021
Re Accreditation Update
Dear Residents, Families & Staff,
Late on Thursday 11 February Lithgow Aged Care was informed by the Aged Care Quality & Safety Commission of its decision not to re-accredit our service.
The Board will appeal this decision. We believe the decision is unjust, arbitrary and fails to take into account the improvements that have been put in place since the new Board took over in late November 2020.
On 5 February in response to the Commission’s 12- 15 January 2021 audit and inspection, the Board submitted a comprehensive self-assessment that when implemented will address the outstanding issues highlighted by the Commission. It is the Board's opinion that this response was not properly considered.
It is essential for the welfare of our residents, their families and our staff that Lithgow Aged Care, better known as Cooinda & Tanderra, remains an integral part of our City and we ask that the Commission reverse this decision.
Stephen Lesslie Chair Lithgow Aged Care 12 February 2021
“Working with Residents and the Community as Partners in Care”