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Aged care bed sell-off

Friday, 27th March, 2015

The former City Council-owned Shorty O’Neil Village in Blende Street. The former City Council-owned Shorty O’Neil Village in Blende Street.

By Andrew Robertson

Broken Hill is set to lose 40 aged care bed licences that were used at the former Shorty O’Neil Village, with City Council now deciding to sell them on the open market.

The shock decision by councillors - who voted for the sell-off at Wednesday night’s ordinary meeting - is at odds with an earlier report to Council that recommended the bed licences be retained to cater for future aged care accommodation demand.

But in a statement yesterday, Council said investigations undertaken by management had since found that “there would be no take up of licences in the city in the short to medium term”.

Mayor Wincen Cuy told the BDT that there was simply no demand for the licences, and Council was better off trying to “get a return” on them before they expired. 

He said management had spoken to a number of local and non-local aged care accommodation providers about taking the licences but none were interested.

“We can keep them for two years (but) it is the belief of our staff there would be no take-up and they would become redundant.”

The speed at which former residents of Shorty O’Neil Village (SOV) were able to relocate to other hostels was an indication of the low demand for beds, the mayor said.

Most of the residents were taken by the city’s remaining aged care provider, Southern Cross Care, which confirmed in February that demand was extremely low.

“We thought it would take us two years (to close SOV) and it took us 12 months,” Mayor Cuy said.

He said demand was expected to remain low because more government funding is being funnelled into programs aimed at keeping people in their homes for longer.

“Given the cycle of lack of demand for residential services has been extended by the Federal Government Aged Care reform agenda by emphasising greater range of services and approaches to encourage people to live for more extended periods in their own homes, it is not that easy to simply predict from demographic changes what the future demand might be for hostel beds,” he said.

“Similarly, the cost of building purpose built hostels and increasing regulatory frameworks being instituted are prohibitive for this Council.

“The likelihood of establishing a commitment from agencies in a two to three year timeframe is also unlikely in the current operating environment.”

The decision means general manager Therese Manns has been given the green light to approach brokerage firms that specialise in selling licences on the aged care market.

Mayor Cuy did not know how much money Council was likely to make from the licences, which must remain in NSW, saying the impact from changes that encouraged people to remain in their homes for longer wasn’t restricted to Broken Hill.

“It’s not just isolated to Broken Hill ... it’s throughout the country.”

If and when demand does warrant the need for more beds, the mayor said there was a process in place that allowed providers to apply for extra bed licences annually.

“At that time, if Council was approached, we would be supportive of assisting providers in securing those licences.

“We are mindful of our aging population and the need for such services in our city, but we must also realise that demand is not there for the bed licences now and mid-term.

“We have a good relationship with local providers and will keep abreast of changes in the marketplace and will determine our support should it be needed in the future.”

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