What we witnessed last night on 4 Corners, ABC TV Australia, was a shocking indictment on the state of aged care in this country. We knew it would be hard to watch,. Neglect, lack of care and an appalling ratio of trained staff to residents. themselves some of the most vulnerable in our community. It is a failure on the part of all of us we have let this go on. The expose prompting the Prime Minister’s decision to hold a Royal Commission proves again how important the 4th Estate is to any democracy, and the ensuing media coverage, social media conversation and heightened community outrage will propel this issue forward. We can’t ignore this issue any longer, our elders deserve better.
From a communications perspective, let’s have a look at what has occurred and what needs to happen next.
The performance of the CEO of Leading Aged Care Services Sean Rooney in his interview was a study in how not to conduct a media interview. When there is evidence there are significant and widespread shortcomings in your industry, you do not provide responses such as: “I’m disappointed there is a feeling that their needs are not being met”. Responding to questions about how aged care homes could possibly provide quality of food at $6/day we got “these are people not eating a four course meal, that needs to be understood.” Mr Rooney, representing the peak industry body, appeared to be trying to defend his members, but he let them down badly. If he had acknowledged there were challenges, if he demonstrated some empathy for residents and a willingness to be support his members in lifting their game, he would be properly representing the industry body because let’s face it there are operators who are doing the right thing by their residents and right now they are hurting too. Which leads to me final point.
There is an enormous opportunity right now for the aged care sector to sort itself out and get some positive stories up and out. Many would think now is the time to keep a low profile and stay out of the way. And for many operators that is precisely what they should do. But for many more, this painful but necessary investigation of an industry fraught with issues will be hard. Hard for those providers who they are providing quality care and their staff who love and care of our fragile elderly. Let’s get those stories out there, there is much pain ahead for the industry, but there will also be a media appetite for cases of operators who are truly delivering on providing a safe home for our elders.