A small group of residents and relatives of residents from Monash Gardens Hostel and Individual Living Units accepted an open invitation from Royal Freemasons to attend their Open Day on 29 March.
Visitors from Monash Gardens, Elizabeth Gardens and Monash Gardens Village received a special welcome as the proceedings began.
As Mr Ian Buckingham, the Chairman of the Board, launched The Strategic Growth Plan 2013-2018 he said the Freemasons seek to be the best at what they do. The purchase of the Monash properties was a step toward the achievement of a strategic direction set in February 2013: namely to triple the size of Royal Freemasons in 3 years. The purpose of the expansion is to meet the need for aged care services for the increasing numbers of ageing ‘baby boomers’: a trend Ian described as looking like a ‘pig in a python’.
Awards for fundraising and staff performance were presented. The stunning window in Coppin Hall was an eye catching backdrop to the proceedings.
Noeline Brown has been Ambassador for Ageing for six years. The position was established in response to public requests. She talked of the need for a positive image for the ageing process. Her work includes much travel, including visits to country towns where elderly citizens often receive volunteer awards.
Noeline had high praise for volunteers telling us volunteering adds 9 years to your life! Programs introducing iPads for elderly people were commended as an excellent way to keep people connected. Noeline is working to dispel the myth ‘older people are afraid of technology’.
Thank you to the Royal Freemasons for inviting the people of Monash Gardens and Elizabeth Gardens to join you at your Open Day. It was a wonderful opportunity to get to know you better.
The Royal Freemasons are due to take over the Monash Council aged care residences on 1 May 2014.
Listening to Mornings with Jon Faine this week I was frustrated, though not surprised, to hear North Western Mental Health is closing Weighbridge Residential Aged Care Facility. Half a million dollars has just been spent upgrading the facility and reportedly there is a shortage of psycho-geriatric care beds in Victoria.
North Western Mental Health describes the newly upgraded facility as ‘outdated’. We’ve heard that before in Monash! Our much loved Monash Gardens and Elizabeth Gardens aged care residences were said to need modernisation with swimming pools and gymnasiums to meet new market requirements! Never mind their wonderful design, success and the welfare need they meet.
As my parents’ public owned residential aged care facility is in limbo between the sale and handover to the new owners the stress on family, carers and staff caring for the residents was all too familiar. Public owned facilities typically set quality benchmarks and can provide a level of care, including psycho-geriatric care, not readily available in the private sector.
We live in the ‘Information Age’ where apparently information about whatever we want to know is available online – or is it? I have been searching for information on the closure of the Weighbridge Aged Care Home. Thus far my search has not been very fruitful. Why not I ask?
One of the main reasons the closure of residential aged care facilities is not front page news is that it is not an election issue. A State election is nearing in Victoria but will any candidate campaign on aged care? Would you vote for a candidate because of their stand on the sale of aged care?
If you would vote on the issue of aged care how do you determining who to vote for? Daniel Andrews MP and Jenny Mikakos MP have openly opposed the sell off of public aged care. However Monash Councillors who are members of the same political party voted to sell off the residential aged care facilities owned by the Council. The only way you can be really sure who to vote for is to get a written statement from your local candidates on their stance on the sale of public aged care and the actions they are prepared to take.
How can those community members who want to protest against the sale of Weighbridge Nursing Home, a public aged care facility proceed? Here are a few suggestions – please add more to the comments on this post.
Since July 2013 the residents and council of the City of Monash have been engaged in a bitter, destructive and wholly avoidable conflict over the Council’s plan to sell the Monash and Elizabeth Gardens residential aged care facilities.
At every Council meeting from July 2013 to January 2014 at least 200 protesters (peaking at around 700 in September 2013) were present to object to the sale. Over that period petitions containing about 10,000 signatures were submitted.
Despite the protests Council decided in January to sell Monash and Elizabeth Gardens and the communal land upon which Monash Gardens stands.
The sale to Royal Freemasons is generally acknowledged to be a good result for aged care – it may even be the case that Council has found a provider capable of doing better by the City’s elderly than in the twenty year, oft-quoted, Council’s “long and proud history of delivering quality aged care”. It does, however, come at the cost of the permanent loss to the community of the land used by many in the neighbourhood of Monash Gardens and, it seems very likely, a significant loss of working conditions for the staff.
So if the result is so good (assuming Royal Freemasons deliver on their very promising start), why was there such conflict and why is there still such deep distrust of and anger towards the Council?
The Role of Councils
The Local Government Act 1989 describes the roles and responsibilities of a Council. Some of those are:
§3C(1)The primary objective of a Council is to endeavour to achieve the best outcomes for the local community having regard to the long term and cumulative effects of decisions.
§3C(2)(g)to ensure transparency and accountability in Council decision making
§3D(1)…provide leadership for the good governance of the municipal district and the local community
§3D(2)(f)fostering community cohesion and encouraging active participation in civic life.
The Word is TRUST
At the time the sale was first publicly mooted there was considerable media attention being focussed on the abuses in a number of privately run nursing homes. Council’s proposal to call for expressions of interest precluded any option other than a sale; people were terrified about the welfare of their elderly relatives.
In the minds of residents and caring relatives, the total lack of warning for this fait accompli was a betrayal of the trust they had placed in Council for care in the later years.
To compound the fear, Council set tender quality evaluation criteria which caused extreme uncertainty – particularly the lack of any requirement that residents could be assured they would stay where they were; Council didn’t raise the question of covenants before considerable community uproar.
The secrecy surrounding the process – Council called it “targeted consultation” and justified it on dubious grounds of commercial confidentiality – and the fallacious claims of protections for residents which were clearly, and ultimately acknowledged by Councillors, impossible to measure or implement only served to increase distrust.
When residents and relatives sought information, Council’s answers were evasive, dismissive and contradictory:
Council said there was a need to spend tens of millions of dollars over 20 years to upgrade the facilities but would not explain those costs (Mayor Drieberg mentioned swimming pools, gymnasiums, cafes and medical centres; Mayor Lake subsequently dismissed those items – nobody has been told the true reasons);
Councillor Little wrote “I will lose no sleep knowing my answers don’t satisfy you”;
Mayor Micaela Drieberg and CEO Andi Diamond insisted the decision was about delivering the highest quality of care and not about the money; Councillors Dimopoulos and Klisaris, in face to face meetings, both insisted the decision was “absolutely about the money”.
And yet, Councillors still dismissed the importance of the matter. Councillor Little consistently refused to discuss or meet with support groups; Cr Dimopoulos described the issue as “by far not the most important” in his time on Council.
It is fair to say that by this time the rift between the community and Council was enormous. A good decision might still open a pathway to better governance and reconciliation within the City.
The Other Word is RESPECT
In January 2014, Council voted, in confidential session, to sell to Royal Freemasons then returned to the public meeting to announce the decision.
Mayor Lake read a statement describing it as a win-win.
Deputy Mayor Dimopoulos, having been excused due to a personal conflict of interest arising out of his recent endorsement as the ALP candidate for the state seat of Oakleigh, was not in the chamber to hear the decision announced. (Privatisation of aged care is contrary to Victorian ALP policy and Cr Dimopoulos’s prospective new boss in Parliament – Daniel Andrews MP, Leader of the Opposition and Member for Mulgrave – met and supported protestors and spoke himself or sent messages of support to the protest rallies.)
Councillors Klisaris and Paterson acknowledged the difficulties they had felt making the decision and the efforts and advocacy of the support groups. Cr Lo acknowledged the passion of the support groups and promised the community that the outcome would be good for everyone. Cr Davies explained his reasons for continuing to oppose the sale but that he believed, nevertheless, Royal Freemasons would be a good provider.
And then Councillor Little stunned the gallery by saying, “…and to the support groups, there was nothing to save!”. What an astonishingly contemptible and contemptuous statement! Monash and Elizabeth Gardens residential aged care facilities have enjoyed an outstanding reputation for the quality of care, the amenity of the homes and the standards of and for the staff. This long and proud history absolutely was worth saving and, due in no small measure to the pressure and public scrutiny brought to bear on Council and the process throughout the sale, it seems that it has been saved.
Healing the Conflict
This dispute has been deeply hurtful to many in the City of Monash. Trust, confidence in and respect for Council has been lost for many residents. It will be extraordinarily difficult to restore that but restoration is essential for the well-being of the City.
The first steps on this path will require improvement in transparency and openness from Council. It is NOT appropriate to hide information from the people most affected by that information. It is not appropriate to stonewall and use technicalities to avoid answering ratepayers’ questions.
The attitude of some Councillors, that they alone know what’s best and what’s important for the City, must change – or the Councillors must be changed. Councillors are representatives, not rulers!
Councillors must remember that they, first and foremost, represent the people of the City of Monash. Their personal party memberships must be left outside all council matters and issues must be decided on their merits, not on the basis of to which group, inside or outside Council, a councillor belongs. The bloc-based voting at the City of Monash is painfully obvious despite Mayor Lake’s protestations that Council should be independent of party politics.
The Role of Residents and Ratepayers
Residents and ratepayers have a wealth of knowledge and experience to contribute. Standing for Council is one way to do this but that only allows for eleven contributors; those eleven must ensure that there are openings and opportunities to encourage the remaining 74,000 to participate when they have appropriate expertise to offer.
In the end, if we, as residents, want better governance, it is up to us to do something about it. We can attend Council meetings to know what’s going on; question council about decisions and processes; contact our Councillors about concerns; find out about candidates and their preference recommendations; understand the voting system used to elect councillors; question candidates about their motives and allegiances and, ultimately, stand up and be counted by nominating for council ourselves. It is only by breaking the voting blocs down to the point of irrelevance that the community’s voice can really be heard and this will not happen while residents and ratepayers are willing to allow the major political parties to use our Council as their Parliamentarian’s kindergarten.
City of Monash Council is recognising volunteers this year for their contribution to the community. Volunteers can be nominated for one of the inaugural Sir John Monash Awards.
The awards have eight categories:
Volunteer of the Year
Positive Ageing Leadership
Outstanding Advocate of People with Disabilities
However the community should be aware that the criteria for these awards should be looked at before nominations are submitted. Even though it is stated on their website that local residents will be recognised, it does not mean that volunteers who are not City of Monash residents cannot be nominated for these awards. Anyone who has volunteered their time in the City of Monash are entitled for an award.
Even though Monash council is recognising volunteers by presenting them with awards there are other ways to show volunteers they are acknowledged and valued for their contributions. One of the ways this can be achieved is by changing their Local Law for Council meetings. At the moment volunteers who make a difference in the Monash Community are not able to ask questions at public question time during Council meetings if they do not reside in the City of Monash. Unfortunately Monash council seem to believe that they are not part of the community. You will find that there are volunteers who use Monash’s services and may need to ask an important question about a program or service at council meetings and unable to do so. If Monash Council wants to recognise volunteers for their input they can start off by changing their local law to include these volunteers. This could be a new and positive change for 2014.
Volunteers help make a difference in a community and every individual’s input counts even if a volunteer does not reside in that community. There are times that an issue or a program might bring together members from other communities and their contribution can influence and play a vital role. An example of this was the surprising campaign against the sale of Monash’s Aged Care facilities. This united volunteers from other communities and diverse backgrounds to help the Monash community fight a common cause. The difference volunteers can make to the community was brilliantly shown during the campaign – everyone counts!
If you would like to know how to nominate a volunteer for one of these awards please go to Monash Council website. Nominations close on 9 April 2014.
The government funded medication management program that assists consumers and Aged care residents in reviewing their medication will on longer be available every 12 months. Instead Medicines will be reviewed every 2 years. Changes started in March. http://5cpa.com.au/programs/medication-management-initiatives/
Many organisations are concerned about the changes as this will put aged care residents at risk. There have been many incidents where aged care residents have been on unnecessary medications, including painkillers.
In fact because there is a high risk of this happening, medications should be reviewed every 6 months. Aged Care residents use a high amount of medications and reviewing medication every 2 years is negligent. It is unbelievable that the Government will put vulnerable people at risk.
Now that these changes have been put in place here are some tips in ensuring that medication is managed appropriately especially for Aged Care residents.
1. Always thoroughly check what medication and how much is listed on the invoice/bill and question the pharmacy and the facility
2. Every 3 – 6 months try to make a time with the pharmacist to discuss and review the medicines that are listed or given to the resident
3. If a meeting is set up to review a resident’s care plan that medication is discussed during the meeting
4. Always inform the GP of any concerns you have with medicines
For more info on managing medication please click on link provided:
The Herald Sun (13 March 2014) reported that the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) Board members were paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in allowances and expenses last year:
“…………. City of Monash mayor Cr Geoff Lake earned $9736 from the MAV to go with his annual mayoral allowance and superannuation payout of $93,000.
The ALP had preselected Cr Lake to run in last year’s federal election for the safe seat of Hotham, but he was dumped after the Herald Sun revealed that he had abused a woman in a wheelchair several years earlier…..”
Monash ratepayers pay tens of thousands as Council’s annual MAV membership fee. For many years, Geoff Lake has acted on behalf of MAV as a Trustee Director of Vision Super, which caused all Victorian Councils large defined liability payouts last year.
To this day, many people perceived that the Trustee Directors of…
“This poster says a lot about Monash Council’s ongoing lack of stakeholder engagement and transparency, for example their decision making process for the sale of the aged care residences Monash Gardens and Elizabeth Gardens.”
We might not be social workers but this could well be our Empowering Monash & YOU ‘To Do List’. Those of us involved in the fight against the sale of aged care residences by Monash Council have considerable experience behind us!
On 19 February 2014 Michael Gidley MP spoke to the Victorian Parliament about the sale of aged care by Monash Council to Royal Freemasons. He recognised the hard work put in by Save Elizabeth Gardens and Save Monash Gardens Support Groups in ensuring ongoing aged care in Monash.
Statement in Hansard Wed 19 February 2014
In his covering letter to Monash Gardens Mr Gidley stated:
We all seek the best possible aged care services for elderly citizens in Monash and once again I thank you and the members of the Monash Gardens support group for your endeavours to achieve the most positive outcomes for the Waverley community.
He has also written to the Elizabeth Gardens support group.
Community discontent over Monash Council’s engagement of stakeholders looks likely to continue as allocation of funds for 2014/15 budget nears.
Protesters against the sale of aged care residences were clear in their requests for Council to operate at higher levels of the IAP2 Spectrum i.e. Collaborate and Empower. The Council has adopted the IAP2 but is operating at the lower levels i.e. Inform and Consult.
Responses to a Public Question at the Council meeting 25 February (see example of question and response – image below) reinforces the Council’s intent to continue existing practices. Public Information Sessions and lodging Submissions are not participating in the decision making processes including identifying the preferred solution. Of further concern is the lack of attention some Councillors admitted to giving the public submissions against the sale of aged care presented to Council on 2 September 2013. Will these Councillors give public submissions on the budget any more attention?
The upcoming budget planning will include allocation of $m14.5 net return on the sale of aged care residences and $m7.2 discretionary funds tagged for aged care. Little attention has been given to the land the community lost in Mulgrave when the aged care residences were sold. The Community has every right to be involved in the planning of what the funds from the sale of their assets, the land and aged care residences, and other funds should be used for.
The Council has indicated Public Information Sessions about the budget will be held in May. Be involved!You may attend Council meetings before then and ask a question in Public Question Time (until April 2014 the Public may ask questions on any items. After April it is possible questions will once more need to be related to the Minutes of the previous meeting or the Agenda*).
Empowering Monash & YOU members will be in the Monash Council Public Gallery for meetings on: 25 March 2014 and 29 April 2014. Join us there!