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Closer to home

Tuesday, 7th June, 2011

READY TO GO: Robinson College CEO Steve Baker in a room of the St Elizabeth wing in the former Centenary Nursing Home. It has plenty of rooms, beds and equipment that could help ease the city’s aged care crisis. READY TO GO: Robinson College CEO Steve Baker in a room of the St Elizabeth wing in the former Centenary Nursing Home. It has plenty of rooms, beds and equipment that could help ease the city’s aged care crisis.

Empty building could house frail aged residents

By Darrin Manuel

As the city looks to Canberra for long-term solutions to the aged care crisis, Robinson College CEO Steve Baker has proposed a quick fix which is much closer to home.

Mr Baker yesterday suggested using a wing of the former Centenary Nursing Home to house the city's frail aged residents who are awaiting aged care placement.

Centenary Nursing Home housed 70 elderly residents up until its closure in 2006. It has been empty ever since.

Its former residents were moved to the new St Anne's home, and the building was handed back to Charles Sturt University.

Mr Baker said the building was still equipped with 25 rooms, beds, cupboards, bedside tables, nurse stations and disabled toilets.

He said it was "such a waste" to have it all sitting empty as the city's elderly residents faced being sent away from their home town.

"I've been reading all the stories in the paper, and really, sending people away is not a good answer," he said.

"We can't have people taking up acute beds in the hospital, but you don't want to see people sent to Balranald either.

"This could serve as temporary accommodation for those waiting for placement, a bit like a halfway hostel.

"Even if it's only a stop-gap until something better is provided... It would only require minimal staff.

"Obviously it needs a good clean-up and some work, but it's nothing a working bee couldn't achieve."

Mr Baker said the former Centenary building could provide the short-term solution that many local families are looking for, while our politicians fight for a better long-term deal from the Commonwealth Government.

"We could talk about it until the cows come home, but here is an opportunity to do something right now.

"We don't necessarily need $40 million, and the reality is this Government doesn't have it anyway.

"It's not impossible. The building is here right now, and we could alleviate the problem straight away."

Although he acknowledged there may be insurance issues and "red tape" involved with bringing the building up to modern standards, Mr Baker said he believed the local community had the tenacity and ingenuity to get the job done.

"As has been said, Broken Hill people have always been resilient. We have to come up with our own solution, and here's a local solution.

"I don't profess to understand aged care funding models, but we've got a building. People need accommodation, well, how much do you need?

"If people have an acute need, then my view is 'why should people leave their community when this building is sitting empty?'"

"I'm not saying it's the be all and end all, but is it a solution worth investigating?"

In addition to providing interim care for the frail aged, Mr Baker said it would also allow aged care students studying at Robinson College to help with staffing needs while gaining valuable practical experience in the aged care industry.

The former Centenary site could also lead to a greatly increased quality of life for patients. 

The building still retains all its original amenities, and an aged care activity program is run at the centre by the hospital.

"At least if they were here they could enjoy a walk in the garden. There's common rooms, kitchens ... then they could come down and have a game of housie, 8-ball or do some crafts. It's all here."

Mr Baker said he was yet to discuss the idea with the Robinson College board, but predicted there would be little opposition to the proposal.

"Over the years we've been trying to establish a use for the building. It's sat here like this since 2006.

"As long as it doesn't cost the college money, I'm sure it wouldn't be an issue."

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