26 June 2023

Currawarna opening only a matter of time

| Gail Eastaway
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Bombala's Currawarna aged care facility.

It is only a matter of time before Bombala’s Currawarna aged care facility reopens. Photo: Supplied.

Bombala’s controversial nursing home, Currawarna, is only a signature away from reopening as an aged care facility.

The home closed in April 2022, allegedly due to staffing shortages.

At that time the facility had been operated by Southern Cross Care, which had earlier closed premises in Harden.

The provider cited an inability to attract suitable staff to work in the facility as one of the main reasons for closure.

The 20 residents of the home were relocated to other facilities from the South Coast to Goulburn, but the fight to save Currawarna has been in full cry since before the last resident left.

But the Bombala community rallied around, forming the Currawarna Assisted Living Lobby (CALL) and set about raising funds to reopen the facility, as CALL chairman Keith Campbell said, “with or without government funding”.

Prior to the NSW State Election in March 2023, significant funding was promised to CALL from both the then member for Monaro Nichole Overall and Labor candidate Steve Whan.

They promised funding to complement the, at the time, $190,000 raised by the community. The State Government had earlier provided $50,000 for the development of a business plan for the reopening.

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The community has now raised more than $300,000 and that, added to the promised $800,000 from the State Government, ensures the facility has enough operating capital to get going.

Mr Campbell said the local community had been amazing in raising so much money.

This week, Mr Campbell was able to confirm the facility is being readied for reopening, pending the transfer of the property title from the Catholic Diocese to CALL.

He said the business plan had been prepared and was with Ernst and Young for final preparation.

He said from the business plan, the indicated accommodation cost would be about $51,000 per person per year.

People receiving home care packages would be able to use that subsidy to pay for their accommodation.

He said there had already been plenty of interest from people looking for accommodation at Currawarna and several former staff members were keen to return.

However, he urged people to be patient and wait until the transfer was finalised before making plans.

Mr Campbell said CALL was looking at how it could use extra funding to turn Currawarna into an aged care training hub, so that more staff could become qualified carers and other allied health workers could also receive training.

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As an assisted living facility, Currawarna would operate differently from a nursing home.

Mr Campbell said the current federal aged care model was broken and didn’t work in regional areas.

Statistics he had worked on had indicated the disparity of aged care beds in the Snowy Monaro region.

He said in Victoria, there was one bed for 19 people over 65, in NSW it was one bed per 20 people, but in this region, it was one bed per 34 people, nearly half what was available in Victoria.

As an example, he cited the Snowy Monaro situation, which has a population of more than 20,000 people, but only has 117 aged care beds available across 15,000 square kilometres.

Currawarna would cater for people who are largely self-sufficient but need some help.

Mr Campbell said the whole exercise to date had been a phenomenal effort on behalf of the Monaro community.

He added the demand for aged care services was not diminishing.

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