26 February 2021

Talks underway in Harden to retain aged care beds

| Edwina Mason
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Southern Cross Care said St Lawrence Residential Aged Care facility in Harden was built on land they purchased from the Royal Freemasons Benevolent Institute in 2008. The now-vacant purpose-built amenity is around 10 years old. Photo: Supplied.

In the wake of a town meeting to discuss the closure of St Lawrence Residential Aged Care in Harden, Southern Cross Care NSW & ACT (SCC) say they have begun preliminary discussions with key stakeholders and suitable service providers around the future of the facility.

The comments come after a packed public meeting in the town’s Mechanics Institute Hall on Tuesday night (23 February), facilitated by Hilltops Council, to discuss the future of aged care in the town due to the shutdown.

READ ALSO Residents furious over closure of retirement village built by the community

In a statement to Region Media yesterday, a spokesperson for the SCC said they acknowledged the Harden community’s disappointment about the closure of St Lawrence, a 45-bed purpose-built amenity.

Condemned for not having representation at the meeting, SCC said they did not receive an invitation to attend.

Amid outrage the now vacant amenity was positioned on land donated by the Freemasons after St Lawrence was moved from its original site at Galong into Harden, SCC confirmed they purchased the land from the Royal Freemasons Benevolent Institution (RFBI) in 2008, funding construction of the new building in 2010.

SCC has also defended their admission practices following community claims beds in St Lawrence remained vacant despite a waiting list.

They said all enquiries, applications and admissions for their homes were managed through a central and robust enquiries line and process by SCC’s head office.

“We endeavour to respond to all enquiries in a timely manner,” they said.

“Potential residents must undergo or have a current government assessment and be deemed eligible for residential aged care in the first instance. In addition, clinical and care needs are assessed prior to admission to a particular aged care home to ensure individual needs can be met,” they added.

“All residents who meet these criteria can be admitted to the aged care facility of their choice.”

In confirming that all residents had left the facility, closed due to low demand for beds and shortage of qualified staff, SCC said most had chosen to remain within 40 kilometres of Harden, although some residents moved to SCC homes further afield “to be closer to their family”.

“We appreciate that despite the short distance from Harden, this change has had an emotional impact on the residents, their families and the community,” SCC said, “but we are continuing to work with residents and families during this transitional period with the support of an SCC mental health nurse and our engagement team.”

Harden Regional Development Corporation (HRDC) chairperson Richard Fleming told Tuesday’s meeting they had been working tirelessly alongside NSW Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke and Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Member for Riverina Michael McCormack to ensure Harden retained the facility.

He confirmed an aged care sub-committee, consisting of Mark Douglas, Scott Collins, Tony Flanery, Samantha Flanery, Rita O’Connor, Reece Grey and Ken McKay had been formed to assist in negotiations with aged care providers in Cowra and Temora.

“Obviously, they will need to see the books of Southern Cross Care, if it is viable and let’s face it, it is viable and if it isn’t, we’re going to make it viable,” Mr Fleming said.

Mr Fleming said the first priority was applying pressure to retain the 45-bed licence allocation for the town.

“Ultimately, we won’t know anything until we have these beds, so the next thing we need to do is to apply pressure to get answers about whether these beds are going to be kept in the town and what has to be done to keep them here,” he said, “and then, if they can’t be kept in the town, we push the deputy prime minister for new beds.”

Mr Fleming urged residents to contact the HRDC if they had any information they could share.

“We need all the information we can get,” he said. “We’re not going to go down without a fight.”

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