New aged care home
Thursday, 19th June, 2008
By Andrew Robertson
Thirteen new low-care beds would be created as part of a proposal by Southern Cross Care (SCC) to build a new 40-bed aged care home to replace the War Veterans hostel.
SCC chief executive Allan Carter said yesterday the new $7 million low-care facility would be built on vacant land next to St Anne's Nursing Home in Eyre Street.
But Mr Carter said SCC could only afford to build it if it secured a $4.8 million low-interest loan from the federal government.
The government in April announced age care providers could apply for $300m worth of zero real interest loans to build or expand aged care beds in areas of high need.Under the scheme, aged care providers who successfully apply for loans are charged interest set at the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Only the interest has to be paid in the first two years of the 12-year loan.
"We have put in a proposal for 13 new low-care beds to be incorporated into War Vets, and to build a new 40-bed facility to accommodate them," Mr Carter said.
He said the facility would replace the existing 27-bed War Veterans which, with its separate units, was not "an ideal layout" for residential aged care accommodation.
"To operate efficiently it needs to be under the one roof," said Mr Carter, who added relocation was required because the existing War Veterans site wasn't large enough for the proposed development.
He said it would also give SCC greater "flexibility" in terms of accommodating low and high care residents. Because they pre-date 1997, the 27 beds at War Veterans, which will transfer over to the new facility, can be used to accommodate either high or low care residents.
But Mr Carter said whether the government would be willing to lend $4.8m for a 40 bed facility when only 13 of the beds were new was "debatable".
"We would have a greater chance if we said we wanted 40 new beds," he said.
"(But) We think we have put together a compelling argument ..."
"There's some distinct advantages to this if we can get the federal government to agree to it."
Mr Carter, who expects an answer from the government by the end of October, stressed existing residents at War Veterans hostel would not be "under threat" from the proposal.
No decision has been made on what to do with the existing War Veterans site if the development goes ahead, but Mr Carter said selling was an option.
SCC's plan comes amid recent comments from the local health service that a current shortage of aged care beds in Broken Hill was impacting on the hospital.
The former manager of the Greater Western Area Health Service's Remote Cluster, Justin Ragenovich, said last month that at any one time the hospital was caring for up to 25 elderly people who did not require acute care.
While he agreed the city could use more age care beds, Mr Carter said the issue was not as dire as a decade ago, when the waiting list was "unacceptable" and people were forced to leave the city to find accommodation.
"We're at a point where we're certainly not as bad as '98, but there are issues.
"The number of beds required would be fairly small."
He said it was more about being able to achieve the right balance between low and high care beds, which SCC's proposed new facility would go some way to resolving.
"The requirement in Broken Hill is a mix of high and low care which would be difficult under certain circumstances to achieve."
A balance also had to be struck between sufficient bed numbers and the need by aged care providers to maintain high occupancy rates in order to remain viable.
"The way the funding works for residential aged care is, if no one's in the bed, you don't get any money," Mr Carter said.
"I don't think you would ever be in a position where the federal government would allow you to have beds that were empty."
SCC had an occupancy rate of 98 per cent plus in all of its facilities, according to Mr Carter, who said that meant there was never going to be beds on demand.