Herd MSL Campaign Spotlight: The quiet power of a letter in an aged care storm
By Karen Dunnicliff
Two years on from the start of the pandemic, amidst the Omicron surge of COVID-19 cases, the Australian aged care sector was under immense pressure with hundreds of homes across the nation experiencing outbreaks and closures, including homes run by BaptistCare.
The crisis exacerbated systemic staffing and funding issues highlighted in the 2021 Aged Care Royal Commission, and strict infection control measures left residents in aged care homes isolated for extended periods, raising wellbeing concerns.
Help was not forthcoming and yet aged care providers were not sharing their concerns publicly. Somebody needed to lead the charge and be first to take a stand.
Given the first reported cases of COVID-19 in Australian aged care were in a BaptistCare home in Sydney, BaptistCare was uniquely positioned to provide a point of view.
With the Australian government under pressure to deliver short-term solutions, BaptistCare sought to connect the existing Omicron crisis with the long-term systemic issues affecting the sector and advocate for action.
We used this as a way into the conversation and developed a controlled and respectful approach to appeal to the government on behalf of BaptistCare’s hardworking aged care staff, and on behalf of residents and their families.
At a press conference in January, Prime Minister Scott Morrison refused to provide ADF support to understaffed aged care homes and encouraged the sector to “push through” and “manage the demands in aged care facilities as best we can”.
These words were triggering for many people working in, or relying on aged care, so we worked with BaptistCare to craft an open letter to the Prime Minister entitled Change is needed: A warning from COVID’s ground zero in aged care.
The letter was shared with BaptistCare’s staff and residents, and then published on the BaptistCare website and social media channels. Needless to say, it struck a chord with audiences.
The open letter was immediately picked up by media and published (in part or in its entirety) in multiple mainstream outlets, including The Guardian, Crikey, Sydney Morning Herald, the Herald Sun, 2GB and Nine.
BaptistCare CEO Charles Moore was positioned as a key industry voice and delivered powerful interviews with select media, including with Sabra Lane from ABC Radio’s AM program and a feature story with Channel Ten’s The Project.
Without any proactive pitching at all, the letter resulted in more than 60 pieces of coverage across broadcast TV, radio, print and online outlets, with a potential combined reach of more than 45 million viewers.
It received overwhelming positive feedback from BaptistCare residents and families, many of whom wrote or called in to BaptistCare directly to thank them for applying pressure to the government on behalf of their loved ones.
Most importantly, the letter kept aged care issues (that are so often ignored) on the news agenda and sparked important conversations about the changes needed.
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