DESPITE advice from the Federal Government Department of Health and Ageing that Prom Country Aged Care (PCAC) should fund some of the construction costs of the proposed new 60-bed aged care facility in Foster with the government-guaranteed residents’ bonds, Acting Board Chair Sandy Bucello insisted that the Board was doing its very best to avoid that option.
She also flatly stated that staff entitlements would not be used to fund the development.
Ms Bucello was answering questions and speaking at PCAC’s annual general meeting in late November.
She explained that the Board was investigating an extensive, innovative and long term array of fundraising options that did not involve “cakes and raffles” both to cover the $2.7 million-plus gap between the cost of the facility and the $9 million government grant, and to support the organisation in achieving ongoing operational surpluses.
Ms Bucello acknowledged the hard fact that during the 2009/10 financial year, PCAC dug substantially into its reserves to keep its operation of Banksia Lodge (Foster) and Prom View Lodge (Toora) financially afloat.
She credited the organisation’s financial difficulties to an unfortunate combination of existing and new factors occurring simultaneously.
- Aged care being a low profit-margin industry.
- PCAC’s facilities and services being spread over two sites.
- A long period of low interest income return on residents’ bonds, which is traditionally the major income generator for an aged care organisation.
- An unusually and coincidentally high number of bed vacancies at Prom View Lodge (PVL) over a short time span.
- Difficulties with maintaining occupancy rates at PVL in the more profitable high level care beds at Toora, partly due to shared rooms no longer being the market preference and partly because there can be a mismatch with shared rooms between the gender of existing occupants and that of potential new occupants.
- Rising wage rates and minimum training requirements in a labour-intensive business.
Following the introduction last December of a number of efficiency measures and expenditure savings close to the time that former Executive Manager Joanne Stringer departed and was not replaced, Ms Bucello said the organisation had now turned around difficult consecutive months of operating losses into consistent and growing operating surpluses.
“It’s certainly been a tough time,” she sighed.
Her view was supported by PCAC’s accountant Grant Irving who described PCAC’s past financial year as “quite challenging to say the least” before observing that, “if things had not changed after November/December 2009, I don’t think we’d be having this meeting tonight.”
Ms Bucello announced that PCAC had turned the corner financially and the Board now had a goal of achieving a $100,000 operational surplus at the end of the current financial year.
This would contrast with the significant annual operating losses of 2009/10 and 2008/09 which were $249,164 and $290,715 respectively.
However in also announcing that the organisation would be looking for a new Chief Executive Officer because the burden of Director of Nursing Bev Pilon permanently carrying both her own position and the role of Executive was too much, Ms Bucello opened the Board up to the question of how it proposed to pay for the new position and simultaneously achieve the proposed surplus.
This specific question was put at the meeting by PCAC’s immediate past Chair Terry Parks who suddenly resigned from the Board during 2010 after taking over from Rob Knight when he in turn had suddenly resigned in December 2009.
Ms Bucello and Mr. Irving failed to provide detail of how the two matters could be achieved, keeping to the line that, “a proper review” of ways to make net savings and efficiencies would be carried out after the new CEO had commenced.
However Ms Bucello emphasised that achievement of the operational surplus was tied to occupancy rates, especially at Prom View Lodge, which she was more optimistic about for the 2010/11 year.
(Interestingly, Ms Park’s question was one of a bevy of financial queries fired in what came across as a hostile manner.
While Ms Parks’ question about reconciling the two goals was clearly justifiable, some of her others were a little surprising given that the short term financial difficulties she was querying occurred during her own tenure as Chair.)
THANKS AND FUTURE
Ms Bucello formally thanked current and former Board members (Rob Knight, Terry Parks and David Roberts who all resigned during the period since the previous annual meeting) and staff for their extensive efforts on behalf of PCAC and its residents.
In particular she saluted “the diligent work to achieve three-year accreditation in all 44 standards of care at both venues.”
Looking to the future, Ms Bucello foreshadowed the Building Sub-Committee led by John Pruyn as being “in a very good position to ramp up the new project next [calendar] year.”
She stated that at present “there were still no real answers” for the future use of either Banksia Lodge or Prom View Lodge once the new facility was in operation.
Apart from stating PCAC’s preference that the buildings continued to be used for some form of health/medical use, Ms Bucello said, “there will be no decisions made without community input.”
She added that it “would be good to get more income streams happening for PCAC and in a way that would benefit the community.”
NEW BOARD MEMBERS
Ms Bucello was then “very pleased” to introduce Joan Liley of Fish Creek and Margaret Robinson of Walkerville as two new faces with excellent and welcome experience joining the Board.
In addition, she announced that although unable to attend the annual meeting, Llew Vale of Toora North was the third new member joining the Board to bring its strength back up to the full complement.
Ms Liley and Ms Robinson both bring experience of the aged care industry from the perspective of a “consumer” in the form of close relative of an aged care client.
However they have also each have many years background as members of other Boards.
In Ms Liley’s case, she has been on the Boards of South Gippsland Water, West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority and Gippsland Ports.
In addition she has been a company director for 10 years and is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
Ms Robinson has a health industry background, having been the Executive Director of the Royal Children’s Hospital Education Institute and as a member on the boards of various disability organisations including one that specialised in housing for people with a disability.
Mr. Vale is a member of the Boards of Prom District Finance Group (which operates Toora Community Bank Branch of Bendigo Bank) and South Gippsland Water and has previously been on local school councils and the Boards of Toora Bush Nursing Hospital and Water Aid Australia.
Together with his wife Jane, Mr. Vale has run a business partnership for 35 years and has been involved in many community activities and organisations.
Since the annual general meeting, the PCAC Board has elected Ms Bucello as Chair and Stuart Treacy as Vice Chair.
Last Friday, the Board conducted interviews for the new CEO.