Nielsen said she was fortunate, as she could clean for herself if she did a little bit every day, but she was concerned for residents who needed assistance showering and with personal care.
“I’m more likely to fail over the vacuum cleaner,” she said. “I can wheel it around, but I’m a bit clumsy with it so that’s why I appreciate having somebody else to do it for me. I do feel sorry for people who are in more dire straits than I am. ”
Megan Peniston-Bird, 77, is disabled with arthritis and her 84-year-old husband has emphysema. The couple has received in-home care from Boroondara council for 10 years, assisting with cleaning.
She was also expecting someone to provide in-home care on Tuesday, but nobody turned up.
“It’s a complete balls-up,” she said. ”It has been absolutely negligent. This is a council that should know better. This is all supposed to be us living in the community and not costing the government a fortune by being in care.”
Boroondara’s decision to exist aged care services was opposed by many elderly residents at the time, who said they were not properly consulted and did not want to change carers.
A spokesman for Boroondara said mecwacare had advised the council and the government it needed six weeks to transition the elderly residents in Boroondara to its services, and the council had worked to this time frame.
“Mecwacare never disclosed any concern regarding staffing shortages and possible impact to services to council prior to commencing the transition of this Commonwealth government service,” the spokesman said. “If there are service issues, this is a matter for the Commonwealth government as the owner of the service and mecwacare as its provider.”
Boroondara said it made the switch because of the introduction of the government’s Support at Home program, which requires providers to offer specialist services such as occupational therapy and physiotherapy.
A Department of Health and Aged Care spokesman said when Boroondara made the decision to no longer provide aged care services, the government undertook a “rigorous process” to select a new provider.
“It is a matter for both the outgoing and incoming providers to manage the organization and staffing requirements involved in the transition,” the spokesman said. “The department notes there has been some disruption to services as mecwacare on-boards staff. Mecwacare is actively recruiting additional aged care staff to manage the increase in client numbers.”
He said it was unfortunate, but disruptions could occur due to the competitive environment for staff at the moment.
Australian Services Union secretary Lisa Darmanin said Boroondara’s decision to stop providing in-home aged care services had put the welfare of elderly residents at risk.
“Local councils are trusted, reliable providers of in-home aged care services and should not abandon vulnerable elderly residents by ending their role in aged care,” she said. “Privatization of in-home aged care services is not just a policy failure, it is a risk to elderly people who rely on essential in-home aged care service.”
Darmanin said the privatization of aged care services was an issue across the state.
”The ASU is looking into the continuity of aged care services where other councils have recently made the misguided decision to privatize in-home aged care,” she said. “Every councillor elected to a council still providing in-home aged care services needs to look very closely at what’s happened in Boroondara and consider if that’s what they want [to happen to] elderly people in their community.”
The Municipal Association of Victoria said 23 councils around the state were discontinuing their aged care services or had already done so.
MAV president David Clark said councils had long been providers of services within the aged care services.
“As the federal reforms to the whole aged care sector continue to be implemented, we continue to call for the reforms to provide the capacity that allows councils to remain as service providers without an unfair burden and ensure that any service changes don’t leave older Victorians worse off, in terms of the service they receive,” he said.
Mecwacare did not respond to requests for comment.
The Morning Edition newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here.