For the residents at NewDirection Care, as well as for the CEO and founder Natasha Chadwick and her staff, 2020 has proven to be one the most challenging years they have ever experienced. The COVID-19 pandemic, which so devastated aged care communities in other states, also brought restrictions and difficulties to Bellmere, Queensland.
But, as Natasha explains, it was her strong values approach to aged care and the quality of life that helped them through. “From about January 31, we realised what was coming,” says Natasha, who won the 2019 Telstra Business Woman Of The Year Awards.
During Natasha’s interview on the set of Game Changers, she told TV presenter Natarsha Belling: “We probably didn’t realise exactly what was coming but we knew that we needed to be prepared as an organisation.
“We brought in additional resources. We developed a strong emergency plan. We drilled and tested that plan with our residents and their families as well as our team.”
At the same time, Natasha and her staff tried to ensure life continued as normally as possible for the residents at Bellmere “because, at the end of the day, here at NewDirection Care the whole point is for us in continuing and enjoying life.
“Our residents, even though COVID has been going on around them, haven’t been severely affected. One, because we are in Queensland there hasn’t been a lot of community transmission, and two, we’ve put a lot of things in place so they could continue to maintain those relationships with their families, with their friends, with each other through virtual chats and lots of different activities.”
As one of the recognised innovators and leaders in Australia’s aged care industry, Natasha provided her views about the sector and future potential reforms to the Aged Care Royal Commission earlier this year.
If Australia hopes to change the outcomes in the broader aged care sector, says Natasha, the industry needs appropriate funding as current funding settings are inadequate.
“Out of the many recommendations made to the Royal Commission the really strong ones are making sure that as an industry we’re funded appropriately, so then staff can be paid appropriately,” says Natasha, who also believes staff training levels require urgent expansion and development.
Training, she says, is one of the industry’s weakest points. “When people [staff] come into aged care they might have a Certificate Three in Aged Care from TAFE and suddenly, they’re providing medication and they’re trying to understand whether someone is deteriorating, and their health actually requires some greater care.
“They don’t necessarily have the skills to do that so it’s really important that we develop strong training to supplement their skill sets.
“It is important that as an industry there is an understanding that if we operate from a place of value and value ourselves as a business and then we make sure we take those values in everything we do whether it is in our relationships with our residents or the relationship in the work that we do with staff.
“If we do that, then the profit driven model will change to be around that [values] and we will receive or achieve the outcomes that we really need to be doing as an industry.”