Clare Grieveson is the new CEO at Southern Cross Care (WA), a major provider of the health, care and accommodation needs for the ageing and those living with disability and mental illness in Western Australia. She sat down with Health Matters for her first interview.
Tell us about yourself
I grew up in England, in Northumberland and Kent, studied at University College London as a speech pathologist, and spent the first 10 years of my career in the NHS. I met my Australian husband in the UK, we moved to Melbourne, Victoria, where I led the speech pathology service at Monash Health. My previous role was at Mercy Health Australia, where for eight years I was Executive Director Quality, Safety and Innovation, responsible for clinical governance and staff safety across their hospitals, aged care and home care services.
How did you transition from speech pathology to aged-care management?
I have worked for a number of supportive and inspiring chief executives who have challenged and encouraged me to explore leadership opportunities, including working in service improvement and planning. At Mercy Health my group executive role spanned aged care, home care and hospital services and it is in this role that I developed my knowledge of aged care management.
Why did you move to Southern Cross Care?
It is important to me that I work within a “for purpose” and values-based organisation.
Southern Cross Care is an organisation that shares values grounded in Catholic social teaching, and this resonated with me. Southern Cross Care WA’s vision of supporting our elders to live enriched and happy lives is wonderful and I am very proud to contribute to it. When the opportunity came up to lead a values-based Catholic organisation in the aged care sector, in the state with the best weather in Australia, the decision was easy to make.
What are the most immediate challenges you face at Southern Cross Care?
The spread of COVID-19 in Western Australia is challenging for everyone, particularly aged and community care providers. Southern Cross Care WA has been preparing as best we can, and we have introduced rapid antigen testing for all staff and visitors at our care facilities and residential sites, in addition to COVID-19 safety protocols. There are many things we can take away from this experience, including preventative measures for disease control, and it has highlighted the needs of vulnerable people in our community, particularly older Australians.
Aged care staff are under immense pressure. What can be done to help them?
We have a great team at Southern Cross Care WA, made of up of incredibly talented and compassionate people who were drawn to aged, disability, mental health and home care because they genuinely want to help people. The spread of COVID-19 in Western Australia is immensely challenging for everyone, particularly our wonderful staff, and we are looking out for one another and encouraging everyone to prioritise their wellbeing.
Southern Cross Care WA has also been working closely with our colleagues in the aged and community care sector in Western Australia to advocate with government, share resources and learnings to support our people and best manage the community spread of COVID-19.
Is the number of people wanting to enter aged care under pressure due to COVID?
In Western Australia the circumstances differ from the rest of Australia. COVID-19 was kept out of the state for a long period of time which enabled the community to take up triple-vaccination, RAT testing and the learnings from other states in Australia before COVID-19 became widespread in the community. This has meant that demand for retirement living, aged and community care has been reasonably stable in most locations.
What are your thoughts on the Aged Care Royal Commission?
Southern Cross Care supports the recommendations from the Aged Care Royal Commission, which provided government and the community a broader insight into the aged care sector, not just past failings, but the need for greater investment as our population ages.
What are the long term challenges facing residential aged care?
Workforce is a long-term challenge for the sector. We know we have an ageing population and steps need to be taken now to encourage more people to work in the aged, mental health and disability care sectors, which offer a range of careers and rewarding opportunities. Southern Cross Care WA is one of a group of aged care providers that recently commissioned a report by consultants ACIL Allen into the implications of labour shortages in the aged care sector in Western Australia. The report estimates that the aged care workforce will need to increase by 60 per cent in the next 10 years to meet growing demand. This challenge can be mitigated in part by government providing pay parity for nurses working in aged care with their hospital counterparts, where salaries are currently 30 per cent higher.