12 April 2022

No reprieve in sight for Bombala aged care facility

| Max O'Driscoll
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Aged care facility exterior

The Federal Budget did not provide the news Bombala residents hoped for. Photo: Southern Cross Care NSW & ACT.

Hopes the Federal Government would step in to save Currawarna Residential Aged Care Centre have been dashed, according to Federal Member for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain.

Ms McBain has tabled a petition with 947 signatures and 242 letters from the Bombala community and surrounds, who she said “are sick of the rhetoric of this government”.

“They looked to the government for support, but they’ve been ignored … there was not a single thing [in the Budget] for the aged care sector. Nothing to do with staff shortages, nothing for aged care transparency and nothing for Bombala,” Ms McBain said.

“(Currawarna residents’) families are doing their best to find new homes, but it won’t be the same. Daily visits from loved ones will be a thing of the past as the 200 km round trip to the nearest aged care facility will make this impossible.

“The government cannot sweep aged care under the rug. Regional Australians deserve to be able to age with dignity in the communities they know and love.”

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The Currawarna care facility was one of two Southern Cross Care (SCC) centres in NSW that were earlier this year earmarked for closure due to unsustainable staffing.

The news meant some residents who have lived in their area their entire lives would be forced to find care elsewhere.

In an online statement, the Cooma-born NSW Minister for Regional Health Bronnie Taylor MLC rejected claims Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt had worked to prevent the closure of the Southern Cross facility and demanded a “concrete” commitment from the Federal Government.

“I cannot be any clearer than to say that aged care is the responsibility of the Federal Government, not the NSW Government, ” she said.

“The Commonwealth has not committed to anything. After all of the learnings from the Royal Commission, the time for the Commonwealth to have a plan for regional aged care is well overdue. Until this is fixed, we will have more situations like Currawarna.

“The NSW Government is ready to work with the Commonwealth on a long-term plan for the region and has communicated this to the responsible federal ministers. We have in-principle support, but nothing concrete yet. I’m confident we will agree on a longer-term solution that will mean sustainable aged care services for the region.”

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Minister Taylor also took aim at Southern Cross Care (SCC), saying the group had failed in its mission and strategic plan to support regional and rural communities.

“I cannot let the people of this region be abandoned by an aged care provider that purports to place its residents at the centre of everything they do,” she said.

“The facts of the matter are Southern Cross Care made a snap decision to close the Currawarna Residential Aged Care Centre in Bombala. They did the same thing last year in Harden, where they announced the closure of St Lawrence, leaving 35 families scrambling to find a new home for their loved ones.

“My Chief of Staff asked SCC CEO Helen Emmerson a very direct question – if the Commonwealth and NSW Governments could find an immediate sustainable workforce and offer financial incentives to SCC, is it still their intention to close the centre now? Ms Emmerson’s answer was ‘yes’, their decision had already been made and it would not be changed, no matter what.

“It’s been a tough and uncertain 2022 for the residents at Currawarna, and my heart goes out to their families who have been left to pick up the pieces.”

A community-driven campaign called Stand with Currawarna aimed to find a suitable replacement for SCC and has begun pushing the Federal Government to assist in keeping an aged care facility within the town. The campaign’s Facebook page recently farewelled staff who had moved on to their next roles following the announced closure.

“To the staff, the community is so very grateful for the care and love you’ve shown the residents of Currawarna,” the post read.

“Hold your heads high and know you gave it everything you had, every day and you enriched the lives of the people you cared for.”

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