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New home on hold

Thursday, 22nd December, 2011

 By Erica Visser

 City Council has yet to decide whether to allow Southern Cross Care to build a new 60-bed aged care facility. 

The aged care provider lodged a project proposal to Council earlier in the year following an outcry over a lack of residential care. 

If Council accepts the proposal, 40 beds will be transferred from Shorty O’Neil Village to a new site and Southern Cross Care will lobby the Federal Government for an additional 20 beds.

Southern Cross Care’s CEO, Allan Carter, said that the project rested on Council’s decision.

“We’ve had no response from Council and until that is known we are not progressing at all,” Mr Carter said.

“The first big one is we will need an air-tight guarantee that the beds will come across.”

Mr Carter said that old Alma Pool site would be perfect for the new aged housing.

“We believe the Alma Pool site would do very well for a project such as this. Then comes the hard part - convincing the Government this is necessary, then getting money to do it.”

Mr Carter said that even if Council approved the project, getting it up and running could take up to three years.

Council’s General Manager, Frank Zaknich, said that Council would wait on a report into the service operations of Shorty O’Neil Village before a decision was made.

The facility offers a mixture of high and low level care but was originally intended as a retirement home.

Mr Zaknich said that the report would determine whether Shorty O’Neil was inappropriately used as an aged care facility and whether it should be developed into an “independent living facility.”

He said the report will be presented to Council in the first quarter of the new year and Council will then consider Southern Cross Care’s proposal.

Chairman of the Far West Health Network board, Dr Steve Flecknoe-Brown, said that it was important for the city to have a facility like this soon to help alleviate pressure on the hospital.

“What we need is enough beds to accommodate the aged,” Dr Flecknoe-Brown said.

“We want them to be able to get there in a reasonable time. It’s really upsetting to see people waiting in hospital for months and months.

“It’s not a place for the frail aged. The Commonwealth is forcing us to keep these people in the wrong place.

“As soon as they go to a nursing home it’s a totally different person you see - they’re happier.”

Dr Flecknoe-Brown said that while the health service’s proposal to send aged patients to empty beds in a Wilcannia facility was not the answer, it was better than the alternatives.

He said that it made sense to send patients to Wilcannia temporarily until a bed became available at a BH nursing home.

“People get all hot under the collar when you talk about sending relatives to Wilcannia because people look down on it,” Dr Flecknoe Brown.

“A lot of families have no problem sending their relatives to Adelaide...but the fact is the Wilcannia residency is a superb place and it’s three hours closer to Broken Hill.”

Dr Flecknoe-Brown said that the health service was combating part of the problem via the development of a 10-bed sub-acute ward that would allow aged patients more time to recover.

He said he was confident that Broken Hill would obtain more aged care facilities if it continued to approach the Federal Government for funding. 

“We’ll get extra beds as well if we hold the Government to a pledge by the Health Minister that places like Broken Hill with special needs will be treated in a more flexible way,” he said.

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