June 24, 2024

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Building a sustainable sector – Australian Ageing Agenda

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If the aged care sector lacks sustainability it isn’t going to survive, delegates were told at an industry event on Wednesday.

“Sustainability is sustainability,” said Jan Golembiewski, chief executive officer at Psychological Design Architecture. “If it’s not sustainable it’s not going to work over the long term. So we need to look at all levels of sustainability – financial, social and environmental sustainability. Otherwise something at some point is going to fall over.”

Mr Golembiewski was participating in a panel discussion – Making contemporary aged care facilities and care models financially viable and sustainable – at the Australian Healthcare Week expo in Sydney.

Mr Golembiewski told delegates that maintaining old buildings was one of the most effective examples of sustainability. “Make them better rather than knock them down and rebuild them.”

Modernisation isn’t always best, said Mr Golembiewski. “And it certainly isn’t in the spirit of the people who we’re looking after – it might be great for their families. But if you’re talking about people with old-fashioned values and experience that goes back decades and decades, we don’t necessarily need to modernise; we might be looking at updating in other ways.”

Also on the panel, Lee Martin – CEO at Tanunda Lutheran Homes. Mr Martin told delegates his facility had embarked on a number of projects to make the site more sustainable.

“When looking at the equation of sustainability we look at ways of saving money or doing things more efficiently,” he said. “At my facility we’re putting solar over carparks so we can assist in reducing our electricity bills, for instance,” said Mr Martin.

“We’re looking at new buildings that are more efficient; we’re looking at IT technology and the use of robots because sustainability is about a sustainable workforce as well. And we all know that the workforce is our main issue.”

For Mick McHugh – national asset manager aged & community care at Calvary Health Care – sustainability is about integration. “And not just one singular mode of sustainability. It’s not just solar, it’s not just LED lighting, it’s not just heat pumps, it’s not just waste – it’s the whole integration of that.”

Providers, said Mr McHugh, should be asking themselves “as a business, what can we do to integrate and what can we integrate?”

Providers need to devise a sustainability strategy, said Mr McHugh. “And flow down from there. And start simple because everything comes at a cost and that cost is not always achievable. But if we have a strategy in place we can become more and more sustainable and what we integrate into that sustainability is absolutely key, and that helps us move ahead.”   

Australian Ageing Agenda is a media partner of Australian Healthcare Week 2024

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