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Bed sale on hold

Monday, 5th March, 2012

 By Erica Visser

The decision on whether City Council will sell its 40 aged care bed licenses “is not going to happen overnight” or even by the next round of federal funding, according to Council’s General Manager Frank Zaknich.

Council last month received a report on the viability of its Shorty O’Neil Village as an aged care facility.

It suggested that Council’s deficit could be greatly reduced if it was to sell its bed licences to a private operator.

The report comes as Council is being scrutinised for its financial management by the Division of Local Government which outlined concerns over record keeping, over a decade of deficit and a possible breach of the Local Government Act.

It was revealed that the aged care facility, which was originally intended as an independent living village, was costing an average of almost $460,000 each year. 

But Mr Zaknich said that Council could not rush into a decision on whether the beds would be sold and must first consider other issues.

“We’re dealing with residents and employees and they’re our first priority at the moment,” Mr Zaknich said.

“Council needs to investigate what would be involved in the sale in regards to residents and employees and what sort of accommodation would be available at the site, whether it be independent living or student accommodation or something else.”

Council has suggested that if the licenses were sold, a condition would be that the new provider took on the staff and residents at Shorty O’Neil Village.

However, concerns over redundancies for some of the 36 employees were brought up by Councillor Tom Kennedy at the monthly meeting on Wednesday night.

Mayor Wincen Cuy said he expected it would take four to six months before Council had an answer.

“What we don’t want to do is make a decision to sell our licenses and then we don’t have a use for the Shorty O’Neil Village itself,” Mayor Cuy said.

“It is a great facility but it’s not suited for aged care at the present stage. Our staff are well-trained and they love their job with a passion but the care of our residents is important as well.

“We need to investigate the possibilities of aged care in the future because if we don’t...we are doing the community a disservice and we could stifle progress four to five more years.

“If we decided to sell the beds then we would release Expressions of Interest and there’s a lot of providers that would be interested.

“A condition is that the beds would have to stay in the city.”

The only aged care provider in Broken Hill other than Council is Southern Cross Care.

The company last year put in a proposal to Council to open a new 60-bed facility following local anger over a shortage of beds that forced residents to be sent to Wilcannia.

Southern Cross Care CEO Alan Carter said that the company’s proposal remained “on the table” despite “the flack that’s gone on since then.”

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