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Aged beds safe:MP

Wednesday, 22nd January, 2014

By Nick Gibbs

Federal MP Sussan Ley is “confident” that 40 aged bed licences would remain in Broken Hill following the closure of the Shorty O’Neil Village in 2016.

The city’s ability to handle an ageing population after City Council’s recent decision to close Shorty O’Neil Village was a major talking point during a meeting with the Member for Farrer yesterday.

It was standing room only when around 20 local residents crowded together at Ms Ley’s office, to meet as part of her five day trip around the electorate.  

Healthcare and drought assistance were also hot topics. 

But aged care was the first to be addressed and predictably the major focus was the closure of the Shorty O’Neil Village.

Ms Ley told the concerned audience that she would continue to work with Council to ensure the Village’s 40 bed licences would remain in Broken Hill.

“I’m confident that as much as can be done at this stage is happening,” she said; reassuring attendees that no one would be forced to leave Broken Hill in search of an aged care bed.

When questioned why funding couldn’t focus on updating the current facility, Ms Ley explained that the cost would be the same as building a new facility.

“If we are talking about a revamp of Shorty O’Neil, we are talking about building something from the ground up and starting again,” she said.

Councillor Christine Adams agreed that, after talking with a member of staff at the village, the main issue was that the village was not equipped to deal with high care patients.

Apart from problems with the layout, other issues included a lack of lockable doors. 

“Dementia patients have bells on their doors so staff know when they leave their room, if there is an emergency at the other end of the building and they go wondering onto Blende Street, what do you think is going to happen?” she asked.

The new GP Super Clinic was also discussed with one community member, who questioned why bulk billing services were restricted to pensioners and those with a health care card.

Ms Ley responded that the government was not able to “say to doctors you have to bulk bill your patients.”

But she agreed that people on a low income should have alternatives to pay for medical bills and advised those concerned to speak with GPs directly. 

In addition, disability access in public places was touched on with one Broken Hill resident describing it as “absolutely dreadful.”

The resident said that even getting onto the footpath posed a problem.

“I’m more than happy to have those conversations (with Council),” Ms Ley responded.

The other major area of concern to arise was drought assistance for graziers in the Far West; particularly those who fell into the unincorporated zone which sits outside Council and Central Darling Shire jurisdiction.  

Subsidies for freight, water and feed were considered the most pressing issues, with stakeholders agreeing that all land holders in the area were currently selling stock. 

Ms Ley agreed that “it is tough times and there are no easy answers.”

“Please watch this space when it comes to a solution for the unincorporated area of West Darling,î she said.

President of the Pastoralists Association of West Darling Chris Wilhelm said the body had approached the Federal Minister for Agriculture for assistance but were yet to get a response.

“We thought we would approach our local member because we are the ones who can vote her back in,” he said. 

Ms Ley will be in Packsaddle and Tibooburra tomorrow before visiting White Cliffs on Thursday and Menindee on Friday.

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