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The care factor: Linda Mellors

Regis Aged Care CEO and Mangaing Director Linda Mellors shows how this values-based organisation is not only leading change in Australia’s aged care industry but that it genuinely cares.

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Every day, Linda Mellors, CEO and Managing Director of Regis Aged Care, is grateful to work in a caring sector that makes a difference in people’s lives. And she feels fortunate Regis can influence how aged care services are delivered in Australia.

Yet, since Linda joined the company in 2019, it has been rocked by crises like no other in its 26-year history. Bushfires, floods, cyclone threats, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety and now the COVID-19 pandemic.

While these setbacks may have shaken the company’s foundations, they’ve also cemented Regis’s commitment to its values and the role it plays in the community. ASX-listed Regis is one of Australia’s leading private aged care providers.

It offers innovative residential, respite, ageing in place and dementia care to residents and home care clients. Established in 1994, Regis currently operates 65 aged care homes including retirement living and home care services across Australia. More than 6,500 residents call Regis home with 9,000-plus staff caring for them.

"Regis’s founding story is a great one," reflects Linda. While working as an accountant, Founder Bryan Dorman visited a small, cramped aged care facility. Moved by this terrible experience, he asked friend and property developer Ian Roberts to join him in developing elderly care homes. "Our founders believed that aged care in Australia should be better, so invested their own funds and energy into improving it," Linda continues.

"They’ve fostered a culture of excellence and innovation. And their continuing involvement, sharing their wisdom and experience is a huge benefit. Our board has high expectations of positive experiences for every resident and family."

Making a difference

With an academic background, Linda completed a PhD in medical research before entering the health industry with formative roles in the Victorian and New South Wales health sectors.

"I’m attracted to the complex environment of health care and balancing the technical skill and care with human elements," she explains. In her previous role as Chief Executive Health Services for Mercy Health, Linda had responsibility for hospital and community services in Victoria and New South Wales.

I believe you should know who the CEO is when you enter a room. They have a quality that exerts leadership. There’s an unquestionable sense this person gets things done in the best possible way, making a positive difference that will last the test of time. When they speak, the word gravitas comes to mind. Linda Mellors is this CEO. Linda leads in a considered, compassionate and decisive way. She has a sense of purpose and an ethical approach that ensures care and compassion can coexist with commercial outcomes. We need strong, well-rounded empathetic leaders in aged care. I am delighted to say that in Linda, we have exactly that and so much more.
John Karagounis
Managing Director and CEO, The CEO Circle

In her last year with Mercy Health, she added Mercy Health’s national residential aged care, home care and retirement living portfolios to her responsibilities and "was hooked". "There’s no greater need than looking after our elders and providing them with holistic care and support," she says.

"The Regis values of optimism, passion, integrity and respect resonate with my own. I want the best care and experience for our residents and clients – from their physical and personal care through to their mental and cognitive health. And I want their families to be confident that our employees are providing this with kindness and compassion.

"We need to respect the wisdom of our elders and the knowledge their families have for their care preferences. And we need to respect our shareholders and their expectations for how we steward our company."

Operational excellence

So what has helped Regis stand out in the industry? The company’s size and scale has created efficiencies that allow investment in staffing development and support programs, as well as business systems and processes. Best practice also comes with each residential home.

But perhaps it’s the genuine care and kindness from frontline employees who consistently provide residents with a positive experience. "Aged care is a wonderful place to work. Our employees know their work makes a difference to someone’s health, wellbeing and happiness," Linda says.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the protection of elderly residents in residential aged care has been Regis’s priority. Understanding the threat of exponential growth, the company implemented strict access controls in mid-March.

"Our teams had to move quickly to provide alternative communication tools, different activities and reassurance to our residents and families," Linda explains. "Feedback shows there was more than 90% support for the stringent measures. It’s vital that residents feel safe in their homes. We’re now finding a way to do business as usual in the COVID-19 environment."

A further impact on the industry has been the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. While Linda is deeply saddened by stories of poor care and disrespect, she’s reassured that the majority of residents in aged care do not suffer these terrible experiences.

"As a sector, we must strive for 100% of residents experiencing high-quality care and support." With the Commission soon to deliver findings, Regis will respond to system-wide recommendations embedding positive features and removing negative ones.

Regis is dependent on strong, supportive relationships with suppliers and partners. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shortages of vital equipment reflected this. "Bunzl Australasia is a key supply partner," Linda tells.

"Their concern for our employees during COVID-19 has been a feature of our relationship. They’ve consistently provided the equipment needed to offer safe care for our consumers."

A partnership of a different nature is the collaboration between Regis and 12-year-old Ned Heaton and his Turtle Tribe toothbrushes, an environmentally friendly bamboo toothbrush used in Regis homes. When looking ahead, Linda is clear:

"The next period will see us maintaining stability and achieving strong business performance. COVID-19 will remain a feature, which we’re factoring for in our planning. We’re also focusing on Regis’s clinical governance systems and processes."

Leading for success

When talking leadership, Linda sees herself in a supporting role, helping each Regis employee to be their best and achieve their potential. "We need to turn up every day with personal integrity and promote the integrity of Regis," she says.

"I’m open, honest and accessible, and I have no hesitation making an unpopular decision if it’s the right one. My leadership role has evolved and I’m taking a much stronger advocacy role in this sector. Aged care is an essential service. Older Australians should have access to the best care and a consistently excellent experience."

Linda’s commitment to the aged care sector runs deep. "I’ve learned that the public narrative about aged care doesn’t reflect the beautiful and caring nature of most aged care workers," she reflects.

"I’ve learned that aged care homes can be bright, airy and full of residents engaged in activities that match their interests. "And I’ve learned that caring for older people is a partnership between families, friends and the aged care home. But most of all, I’ve learned that aged care homes are communities within communities."

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