Originally written by ANGELA McFEETERS
A NEW 90-bed aged care facility will be built in Portland, much to the dismay of existing providers, Portland District Health and Lewis Court Home for the Aged.
The Federal Government Department of Health and Ageing has allocated Innisfree Aged and Community Care 60 high care and 30 low care places for a new facility at 44 Richardson St, near the site of the 30-bed high care facility that was closed late in 2006. No further information about the company was available from the government, although Innisfree was allocated 230 high care and 105 low care beds at five other new facilities across Australia.Lewis Court chief executive Rob Hemley said the allocation “will be destabilising, and threatens aged care viability in the south-west”.Lewis Court is a community-owned not-for-profit facility that has 45 low care beds, and Mr Hemley feared the demand for services with the new facility would not be high enough, leaving both facilities part-full. “Any new providers in the Portland district may jeopardise the economic viability of current aged care providers, as they are all small rural community facilities and require a full occupancy to remain financially viable,” Mr Hemley said in a letter to Member for Wannon David Hawker in July. PDH’s temporary chief executive Kathryn Eyre said she and acting chief executive John O’Neill (who is currently on leave) weren’t happy with the Federal Government announcement.While management of both facilities were notified of the decision, made on December 20, thePortland Observer did not receive any media release on the matter.“This will impact on our recently-opened Harbourside Lodge,” she said, referring to the new 30-bed high care facility that replaced the Seymour Cundy wing of the hospital late last year.Ms Eyre said a meeting with Department of Health and Ageing acting director of aged and community care Andrew Bamber at the Glenelg Shire Council on December 6, 2006, indicated that, based on government population benchmarks, the Portland region had two more aged care beds than needed, even after the closure of the 30-bed Portland Private Nursing Home.On February 3, senior management from PDH, Lewis Court and Heywood Rural Health, as well as Glenelg Shire Council citizen services manager Adele Kenneally moved a motion that the group supported up to 38 new aged care beds for the Portland region: 23 beds at PDH and HRH, and 15 low care beds at Lewis Court.When annual allocations became open for application the Federal Government indicated that 115 new high care beds could be applied for in the Glenelg, Moyne, Southern Grampians and Surf Coast regions, but no low care beds were allocated.Ms Eyre said one year after Mr Bamber’s visit, the impact of the Richardson St facility’s closure appeared to have been absorbed with previous occupants returning to the region, and the waiting list for beds at Harbourside Lodge was “not huge”.
Mr Hemley and Ms Eyre questioned what had changed since Mr Bamber’s visit, allowing so many more beds to be allocated to a new venture, including the introduction of 30 low care beds.Lewis Court had been keen to apply for more low care beds. However, that was not an option according to the Federal Government’s own documentation.“Who made the decision to make the allocation to Innisfree within the department?” Mr Hemley said.He also asked why there had been no consultation with the region’s aged care facility operators.“In fact, this decision was made in spite of the providers.”Mr Hemley said he and his board would be seeking answers from new Commonwealth Minister for Ageing Justine Elliot.• An internet search found that Innisfree Residential Aged Care Facility operates the 60-bed Woodend Community Aged Care north-west of Melbourne. However, no-one from the company has returned calls from the PortlandObserverto confirm whether they are linked to Innisfree Aged and Community Care, or to provide any further information.Representatives from Heywood Rural Health and the PDH board as well as Ms Elliot’s office were not available for comment due to the holidays.