Case study: Karingal Aged Care Services

Reputation is a treasured asset to any organisation. It is fragile, easily damaged and immensely hard to restore, therefore its management is fundamental. This philosophy applies to aged care facilities where it is essential to convey a caring and responsible image. If there was ever a case of needing strong community support through long-term community engagement, then it is in aged care.

Karingal Aged Care Services was thrust into a crisis situation in June 2007 when a newspaper headline read Carers claim elderly abuse HORROR HOME Frail elderly residents abused, says carer.

Initially the facility denied the abuse. However, subsequent official investigations by the Department of Health and Ageing and an audit by the Aged Care Accreditation Authority confirmed breaches in its duty of care, resulting in a staff member being sacked.

While the damage had been done, the facilities initial denial of the allegations had given credence to the claims which were proven by the Department, the recommendation by Font Public Relations to the Board and Management was to adopt an open and honest approach, which significantly reduced the external pressures on the facility.

An ongoing communications strategy was adopted, advising residents, family, friends and the local community on a regular basis. In addition, a process of engagement was recommended by Font with local journalists to ensure they were fully briefed and kept up-to-date on developments as well as inviting them to inspect the facility.

This allowed Karingal to get on with business and set about a process of rebuilding its reputation. Community support was fundamental, as the facility was overwhelmed by the positive response it received to owning up to the issues. The local paper recognised this and adopted a ‘straight’ reporting approach.

While the community was disappointed with what had occurred, it accepted they had got it wrong thus clearing the path for future growth of the facility.

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