THE South Gippsland Shire Council is not on its own.
Every municipality in the Australia is likely to stop supplying aged and disability services by 2020, or earlier.
For some like South Gippsland, Bass Coast Baw Baw and Latrobe will see their disability clients considering their options from October 1 this year.
And one of the main reasons why they won’t be able to continue to deliver services in a deregulated, competitive environment is the higher wage structure hammered out by local government employee unions in relation to other sectors.
So the revolution is coming and fearful that some people, especially those in remote areas, will be left in the lurch if nothing is done, South Gippsland Shire has opened a dialogue with the Gippsland Southern Health Service (GSHS) about offering the services that the shire presently provides.
As many as 35 shire employees will be affected.
It is hoped that GSHS may be able to achieve sufficient economies of scale with the community and health services they already supply, to be highly competitive under the new arrangements but this is yet to be seen.
Under the new arrangements, set down by the Australian Government, it will be the clients not the shires or hospitals who will be funded for services and those clients will be able to make their own decisions where they go.
The concern is that private providers might cherry-pick services to populated areas and leave country/remote areas to fend for themselves.
Bass Coast Shire Council is also considering its options.
Here is the joint statement issued on Gippsland Southern Health Service letterhead, but with comments by the South Gippsland Mayor Cr Ray Argento and CEO Tim Tamlin:
“Gippsland Southern Health Service (GSHS) is exploring a range of options with South Gippsland Shire Council (Council) regarding the future of aged and disability services provision in South Gippsland.
“In light of changes to funding for the aged and disability sectors, Council and the health service do not envisage they can effectively operate as individual providers in this environment in the future. Any proposed model of service provision will require Commonwealth and State Government sign off.
“GSHS hopes to work with Council to ensure that services continue for South Gippsland’s older frail people, people with disabilities and their carers living in the community. In any event, assessment services will be retained by Council as we expect the transfer to another service provider would not be supported by the Commonwealth Department of Health. The future of the Regional Assessment Service is uncertain beyond June 2019, however regional alliances are being explored.
“GSHS Chief Executive Officer, Mark Johnson said that he was looking forward to working with Council to explore the possible options for the delivery of aged and disability services in the South Gippsland Shire. “Our aim is to ensure a seamless transition safeguarding the delivery of services and with the Council and our clients, building a healthier community together.”
“GSHS Board President, Alex Aeschliman echoed his CEO’s sentiments: “GSHS and the Council have together been researching various options for some time and whilst there is still a lot of work to be done to transition services our intention is to deliver the best outcome for the community,” said Mr Aeschliman.
“South Gippsland Shire Mayor Councillor Ray Argento said it may be the best option for an imperfect situation. “Moving away from aged and disability services without securing future provision of services would be negligent by risking the loss of, or at best reduced access to services for, vulnerable community members.
“By considering the transition of services we may be able to ensure that those community members who are reliant on these services are provided the full range of health care they need. Council is also committed to the retention of local employment for local people within South Gippsland Shire,” said the Mayor.
“Council’s Chief Executive Officer Tim Tamlin was conscious of the uncertainty this situation creates for Council staff.
“As Chief Executive Officer I am very saddened to think that we could lose a dedicated and community-minded team. Our home and community care staff work tirelessly to provide essential services to vulnerable members of our community. Council is continually receiving praise for the great work the team undertake and it is my hope that many of these terrific people will find employment within the service system if such a transition is completed.”
The South Gippsland Shire Council considered the matter in closed session at its council meeting on Wednesday, June 28 having voted that the matter was “confidential” due to its potential to impact personnel in the council’s employ.