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Beds will ‘prove hard to offload’

Tuesday, 31st March, 2015

By Andrew Robertson

City Council will struggle to find a buyer for its 40 aged care bed licences and even if it does it likely won’t get much for them, say nursing home operators.

Councillors last week voted to sell-off the bed licences following the earlier-than-expected closure of Shorty O’Neil Village in February. 

Mayor Wincen Cuy said there was no local demand for the licences and Council was better off trying to get a return on them before they expired.

But nursing home operators believe they will be hard to shift, citing a highly regulated licensing system and low bed demand due in part to an increase in the take-up of home care places.

Southern Cross Care executive officer Allan Carter said one problem was that bed licences were tied to the regions in which they were first allocated.

Broken Hill is part of the Orana Far West region which stretches east to Dubbo.

Mr Carter said low demand for licences in Orana meant it was unlikely any nursing home operators would be looking to purchase existing licences on the open market.

And if they were, he said, they would not be willing to pay very much because new licences are made available each year, based on a formula.

Last year the federal government made 100 new beds available for Orana but just 51 were sought by four operators in Dubbo, Mudgee, Wellington and Balranald.

“We certainly don’t want them, Cobar doesn’t want them (and) Dubbo picked up beds in the last round (of allocations),” Mr Carter said.

While a potential buyer can make special application to the government to move existing licences out a region, Mr Carter said success was no certainty.

“History suggests the government is reluctant to move them out of the area they were originally allocated to.

“Hopefully they can get a buyer, but I wouldn’t be confident.” 

The Lilliane Brady Village Nursing in Cobar might have considered taking some of the licences years ago, said director of nursing Sharon Huon, but not now.

The council-owned nursing home has been unable to fill all of its 18 beds for the past three years.

Ms Huon puts the lack of demand down to an increase in the take-up of home care places.

“The government is funding more and more packages in the community,” she said.

“Whether they receive the appropriate level of care is another matter.”

Ms Huon said demand was expected to pick up in two to five years because of the town’s aging population.

But in the meantime, Cobar was not in the market for more beds.

“Definitely not.”

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