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Aged care plan gains momentum

Thursday, 1st September, 2011

By Darrin Manuel

A proposal to construct a new aged home at the old Alma Pool site gained momentum yesterday when Southern Cross Care (SCC) reaffirmed its interest in building a 60-bed hostel on the site.

The idea was floated last month between City Council and SCC, and would involve the transfer of 40 aged care licenses from Shorty O’Neil village to the new facility.

An extra 20 aged care licenses would also be sought from the Commonwealth Government.

However, at last night monthly Council meeting one councillor said that the plan did nothing to alleviate the immediate problem of the shortage of beds for aged care in the city.

The proposed hostel would allow Shorty O’Neil Village to revert back to operating as independent living units for retirees, and would ease the city’s recent shortage of aged care beds.

SCC Chairman, Bob Johnson, said a number of factors would have to be considered before the proposal could go forward but that SCC was enthusiastic.

“We’re quite keen to do it. We think the Alma Pool is an excellent site and we’ve had an architect draw up plans and they’ve been presented to Council,” said Mr Johnson.

“But we just have to make sure certain things are okayed before we move ahead,” he said.

“Council have to agree to relinquish their 40 aged care licenses from Shorty O’Neil and... provide us with the land. But I think they’re talking to State bodies to see if the land is available.”

Discussions would also have to be held with relevant health bodies and the city’s State and Federal members, he said.

Along with alleviating the city’s aged care bed shortage, Mr Johnson said the new hostel could also help overcome the difficulties associated with having frail-aged residents living in individual dwellings, as was the case at the former War Veterans Hostel in Thomas Street.

“We’d be quite happy to see it built. We believe Shorty O’Neil is a lot like the old War Vets was for us,” he said.

“It’s not too good long term. It’s just difficult to work around individual units.”

Mr Johnson estimated the new facility could be built at a cost of around $15 million, and said a submission could be made to Federal Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, if Council and other relevant parties gave the idea the green light.

Council’s General Manager, Frank Zaknich, said an internal review of Shorty O’Neil Village’s operations would need to be undertaken before the proposed new hostel could be considered.

At last night’s monthly meeting Council resolved to compile a report on the village, and Mr Zaknich said he hoped it would be completed in just over a month. 

But Councillor Tom Kennedy told the meeting that SCC had stated that, as a business, it relied on having a waiting list of people to make it viable.

This meant that some elderly people would still have to leave the city to find a place in a nursing home, he said.

“In the interests of the community, Council should apply for more aged care facilities to alleviate the crisis now,” he said.

Clr Kennedy proposed that Council keep the Shorty O’Neil village for aged care and apply for funding from the Commonwealth to build a 30-unit village for independent living on empty land by the North Family Play Centre or on another suitable site. 

“Shorty O’Neil is viable and has been a jewel in Council’s crown and it can continue to be that,” he said.

His proposal to save Shorty O’Neil for aged care attracted no support from the other councillors although Councillor Neville Gasmier’s suggestion that Council investigate the 30-bed village idea was carried.

 

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