Preparing for the Future

Carrington Care

When Raad Richards stepped into the CEO role at Carrington Care nine years ago, his first mission was to embark on a forward-looking strategy for growth. He wanted to establish a name for the organisation within the aged care sector and ensure that Carrington Care always has the tools needed to remain viable while providing quality services to Sydney’s Southwest. One might call Raad a visionary leader with great foresight and almost a whole decade later, these traits are keeping Carrington Care ahead of the pack, even at a time when all in the sector are facing great uncertainty and change.

Carrington Care sits on over 400 acres of bushland in the Macarthur region in New South Wales, four kilometres southwest of the historic town of Camden. A non-profit, charitable and public benevolent organisation, Carrington Care was established in 1889 when William Paling, a wealthy businessman and philanthropist donated the land and money to set up Carrington Centennial Hospital. The hospital was opened the following year, becoming the first convalescent hospital in Camden. In the early 70s, the hospital was turned into an aged care facility following an agreement made between the NSW Health Commission, Federal Department of Health and Carrington Care’s Board of Trustees. This marked the start of an exciting progression from a hospital that cared for convalescents to the organisation it is today – one that encompasses a retirement village of 300 villas and units, four residential facilities and a wide range of in-home support.

The original hospital building, which was converted into a nursing home in the 70s, remains today as the administration building. The first Residential Aged Care facility was built on site in 1981 and until May this year stood the test of time. Although it served the community well, as a show of how Carrington Care began, Raad and the Board knew that in order to better meet the changing needs of the community, it was necessary to redevelop the facility. So in May, the facility was demolished and construction of a new 132-bed facility will commence this month. There is a lot of excitement surrounding the project as it will open up new possibilities for both Carrington Care and other healthcare providers in the Macarthur region.

One element that will benefit from the new facility is palliative care, an area in which Carrington Care excels. The organisation is committed to managing the end-of-life process and has developed effective programmes with the goal of improving quality of life for both residents and their families, providing them with the appropriate care and support to help them through this difficult stage. Raad believes that the aged care sector can play a pivotal role in managing the nation’s rising healthcare costs, hospital occupancy levels and shortage of acute hospital beds by providing both palliative and transitional care. After all, aged care facilities have the expertise and systems to provide adequate care in these areas. Working together with hospitals and general practitioners, aged care providers can transition a patient into their facilities or back into the wider community easily and successfully.

The benefits of working with aged care providers in palliative and transitional care are tremendous. On top of lowering healthcare costs and freeing up much needed beds, patients will also experience some cost savings as they do not need to remain in the hospital for an extended period of time.

The benefits are glaringly obvious and Raad says that the acute health sector needs to take a closer look at the opportunities to work and partner with aged care providers. On his part, Raad is working on providing a cost-effective health programme to help the hospitals in the district manage their admissions and has planned for the new development to cater to transitional and palliative care.

“As part of the development, we are creating a number of transitional care beds so that we will have facilities available for transitional patients, helping them move from the hospital back to the community,” he explains.

Raad and the team are excited about the new development, which will be ready in October 2014. Providing both high and low care as well as dementia-specific beds, the new building will have all the markings of an ultra modern facility. It will be fitted with up-to-date IT systems that will be made available to both staff and residents and it will house teaching facilities with the latest audio and visual equipment to conduct various learning and development programmes. And Raad has thought of just about everything – the new development will also have two studio apartments that will serve as accommodation for medical students who live on the facility during their rotational placements and families of the residents visiting from out of town. In essence, the new development will create a modern and comfortable environment for all who use it.

Raad has always been committed to innovation, believing that it is necessary to stay at the forefront of technology in order to prepare for the future. The entire organisation has already moved to computerisation of its clinical records as well as electronic medical management. While implementing the latest technology is important as it creates efficiency within the organisation by streamlining processes, another reason why Raad sees value in implementing new systems is because of the changes that are occurring with the aged care reforms. He says that “preparing your IT systems to assist aged care providers in developing other programmes that will feed into the new era of reform and delivery of aged care services will assist them in managing and understanding their businesses. This will help providers remain viable.”

The new reforms that will roll out progressively from 1 July are set to increase competition in the industry as they will give clients and residents greater control in choosing the aged or community care services that they want. Competition will be further complicated by increasing regulatory requirements coupled with rising costs, and it is no surprise that smaller providers as well as facilities that are located in the regional centres will be the hardest hit. The general consensus amongst Raad and his colleagues in the sector is that organisations need to do a number of things – they need to start preparing for the reforms, grow and expand and train their staff on how to cope with the changes.

“That is why the board made the decision to redevelop the older facility, because I firmly believe that growing your business in a strategic way is the way to go in order to remain viable in the industry and to survive the increasingly competitive landscape.”

And that is not all that Raad has begun doing in preparation for the reforms. As an organisation that is committed to learning and development, Raad ensures that training programmes are always made available to his staff. The new reforms will require a shift in the mindset of all who work in the sector and change is never easy. However, the management team at Carrington Care is not shying away from the challenge, instead showing and teaching employees how to better manage and provide these new services. Raad encourages the other aged care providers to do the same – to use education to help employees cope with the new reforms.

His emphasis on training and education has had another positive effect: Carrington Care enjoys a very low staff turnover, something that is almost unheard of in the industry. About six years ago, the organisation developed a strategy to grow its skills base from within, introducing government-funded programmes to put its employees through further education. At present, Carrington Care is also running a leadership programme for employees who have been singled out as people who have the potential to become leaders within the organisation in the not so distant future. Carrington Care prides itself as a learning organisation committed to its workforce and believes that its programmes will benefit the larger sector as well, particularly when employees move on to other organisations. Being a learning organisation has had a two-fold benefit – attracting staff in a sector that has a talent shortage and retaining valued employees.

Another way in which Carrington Care stands out is through its strong partnerships with leading universities and technical and further education (TAFE) colleges. Carrington Care works closely with the University of Western Sydney (UWS), Notre Dame University and Macquarie Fields TAFE on placement programmes for their students. These placements vary between universities. Students from UWS are put through a training programme at Carrington Care that takes them through the operations of an aged care organisation, from human resources to accounting. Meanwhile, first and final year medical students from Notre Dame University are welcome on-site as part of their rotational placements. While the first year students are offered weekly half day placements and focus on the social welfare issues facing the residents, final year students spend a month at Carrington Care, working with the general practitioners and nursing staff on their rounds.

To ensure that these placements encompass a good mix of training in various facets of the organisation, the partnership with Macquarie Fields TAFE takes on a fitness and exercise approach. Students who are completing their diplomas in fitness and exercise physiology make their way to Carrington Care every week to lead the residents in various forms of exercise. Already in its fourth year, this programme has resulted in immeasurable benefits, particularly in the engagement between the residents and the young students.

“There was some apprehension at first from the students and residents but after two weeks, both parties were looking forward to engaging with each other,” says Raad, “and we’ve won two awards for this innovative programme. One of them was from the Minister of Mental Health and ageing.”

The organisation’s success does not stop there. Today, Carrington Care regularly presents the programme at conferences around the country in a bid to encourage other aged care providers to explore innovative ways in engaging their residents.

Carrington Care is seen as a forward-looking leader in this space and whilst it has extremely long waiting lists for its retirement villas and residential homes, it is not complacent; instead, it continues to plan for the future and develop innovative programmes and strategies that will help it better serve its community. Just a month ago, Raad and the team opened the Carrington Recreation and Leisure Club within the retirement village. The club boasts an indoor swimming pool, an auditorium, bowling green, on-site restaurant, game rooms and a computer club. And it has already gotten the attention of corporate organisations that are keen to rent the club for their various meetings and activities. Although renting the space out is something that Raad is open to, the main purpose of building the club was to encourage his more mobile residents to exercise, interact with each other and enjoy life in the village, adding great benefits to their health and welfare. The club, Raad believes, should be a benchmark for all retirement villages across the country and he encourages others to think about building a recreational hub in order to encourage interaction and engage residents who may otherwise feel isolated.

Carrington Care may be steeped in history but it continues to look forward, taking the challenges faced by the sector head on and embracing the changes and needs of the future aged wholeheartedly. With Raad at the helm and supported by a team of talented staff, Carrington Care is set to continue caring for people in the region and is a force to be reckoned with in the sector.

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July 20, 2018, 1:02 PM AEST

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