20 May 2022

Third aged care facility shuts beds in south east NSW amid staffing pressures

| Claire Fenwicke
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Aged care facility

Albert Moore Gardens in Merimbula will have 15 beds “temporarily suspended”. Photo: RSL LifeCare.

More aged care beds have been lost in Eden-Monaro, with Albert Moore Gardens in Merimbula “suspending operations” in part of its home.

Levels One and Two of the ‘Bimbimbie’ facility will be closed, meaning 15 people will lose their beds.

A statement from the facility’s provider, RSL LifeCare, said no staff would lose their jobs as a result of the decision.

“The RSL LifeCare team are working closely with those 15 individual residents and their families to determine suitable, alternative accommodation, and are offering any support that may be required,” the organisation said.

No new resident admissions to the home will be accepted for the next 12 months.

Residential aged care general manager Matthew Filocamo said the decision was made with the best interests of both staff and residents in mind.

“Where we cannot ensure we have enough trained staff in one location, a reduction in the number of residents is the responsible approach to take,” he said.

“RSL LifeCare’s priority is to provide the best possible care for our residents, and as a responsible provider of residential aged care, we work hard to ensure we have the appropriate number of trained staff to continue to provide a high standard of care to all our residents.

“The ability of aged care providers across Australia to recruit residential aged care staff has been progressively in decline for the past few years. There are several factors that have led to this, all of which are outside the control of RSL Lifecare.”

The facility’s 53 other residents won’t be impacted.

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It’s the second RSL LifeCare facility in the area to be impacted by staffing shortages, with its Roy Wotton Gardens centre in Eden shutting its doors in December 2021.

Some of its residents were moved to Bimbimbie, but in a statement, RSL LifeCare said, “no residents from Albert Moore Gardens who were previously at Roy Wotton Gardens have been affected by the temporary bed closures”.

Eden-Monaro MP Kristy McBain put the blame at the feet of the Morrison Government.

“There is no doubt in my mind that these closures are a direct result of the Liberal-National Government neglecting the aged care sector,” she said.

“While [the impacted Bimbimbie residents] will likely be transferred to a nearby facility, it paints the picture of what is happening to our regional aged care facilities under the Morrison Government.”

Beds close to home could be difficult to find, as the last residents from the now-closed Currawarna aged care facility in Bombala were moved out on 12 April.

Those residents were relocated around the region, including to Bombala, Delegate, Pambula, Cooma and Canberra.

A spokesperson for Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck said the Morrison Government was delivering the “most significant reform in a generation” to improve the care of senior Australians.

“We have responded to all 148 recommendations of the Final Report of the Royal Commission and are one year into a five-year plan which carefully navigates a path to a stronger future across the five priority pillars of home care, residential care, quality and safety, workforce and governance,” the spokesperson said.

“Our $19.1 billion plan for aged care is comprehensive. We have well-considered legislation already in place and before parliament, and we are engaged with the aged care sector and representatives of senior Australians to develop a world-class aged care system.

“Under the new funding model, funding for Albert Moore Gardens will increase to $5 million.”

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Australia’s ageing population has meant the aged care sector is a continually growing sector, increasing the pressure to find staff.

The Aged Care Royal Commission projected the number of Australians aged 85 years and over will increase from 515,700 in 2018-19 (2.0 per cent of the population) to more than 1.5 million by 2058 (3.7 per cent of the population).

Canberra aged-care provider Goodwin says a lack of staff is having an impact on the industry. While Goodwin hasn’t reported staff shortage issues, community care executive manager Sarah Lewis said the lack of staff and beds in the sector as a whole also put pressure on unpaid carers.

“If you’ve got someone who can’t access a bed, the impacts are huge on loved ones looking after that person, as well as the healthcare system,” she said.

“Loved ones will take over caring while they wait for a bed to open at another location.

“The demand for staff is so high, but the pool of staff [to hire from] hasn’t increased.”

Original Article published by Claire Fenwicke on Riotact.

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