ECH Group to launch new living options

NEW aged care legislation coming into effect next year is already seeing the industry transforming with major Adelaide provider ECH group launching a pipeline of new independent living builds.


Four high-profile board members are also joining ECH as it readies itself for changes in February next year that give clients the funds to directly buy their own aged care packages.

ECH chief executive David Panter believed the new rules would transform the market place as research showed the elderly would reject residential care for more tailored in-home support when they got to choose how they spent their own dollars.

“We’ve positioned ourselves well for that in making the decision to move away from running residential nursing homes to focus on independent living at home,” Dr Panter said.

Last year, the group appointed Dr Panter, the former chief executive of the Central Adelaide Local Health Network who was responsible for the design and development of the new Royal Adelaide Hospital, to lead its new direction.

It had already sold its 11 nursing homes and 1200 beds to the Allity group two years ago and established a network of wellness centres, health services, in-home care, fitness services and support.


Dr Panter said ECH was the second biggest provider of in-home care to older people in South Australia after Resthaven.

Three new board members joined ECH last month, including management consultancy RH Advisory owner and former Ernst & Young partner Rosina Hislop, ex-KPMG partner Peter Siebels and deputy chief executive of system performance at SA Health Jenny Richter.

Dr Panter said former government chief executive and inaugural National Telstra Business Woman of the Year in 1995 Sue Vardon also joins the board in August.

“We went to external advertising and we had over 100 very good applications for the positions, it demonstrated how our changed direction to focus on independent living really excited people, so people were very keen to join our board,” he said.

The group starts work on building eight new independent living units at Warradale this week, adding to the 1700 it owned at 98 locations throughout South Australia.

“We have a fairly long pipeline of developments, we want to build several hundred more units over the next few years,” Dr Panter said.

But the units were deliberately built in small groups as ECH was committed to developing clusters that “blend into the surrounding community, we don’t want them being ghettos of old age”.

Another potential shake up of the industry was likely after Minister for Ageing Zoe Bettison introduced the Retirement Villages Bill to ensure any companies owning retirement village or retirement units had to pay anyone moving out for their home after 18 months for the market price.

“A lot of private providers won’t pay you until they have sold the unit to someone else,” Dr Panter said.



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