Early in the new year, Southern Cross Care NSW & ACT announced its intention to close Harden’s St Lawrence Residential Aged Care Facility.
Following the expression of strong concerns and disappointment by the aged care residents, their families and the local Harden community, as well as extensive media coverage, a meeting was convened in Harden on Friday 5th February which included the Hon Michael McCormack MP, Member for Riverina, Steph Cooke MP , Member for Cootamundra, Chris Ireland, CEO of the Harden Murrumburrah Regional Development Corporation, Samantha Flanery, Deputy Chair of the Harden Murrumburrah Regional Development Corporation , Tony Flanery, Hilltops Council Councillor, Chris Manchester, Hilltops Council Councillor, Helen Emmerson, CEO Southern Cross Care NSW & ACT ( who attended via Zoom) and Gaynor Squillacioti, GM Care Operations Southern Cross Care NSW & ACT (who attended also via Zoom).
It would have to be said that if the intention of the meeting was to prevent the closure of the St. Lawrence facility, then that purpose was not achieved. Southern Cross Care, in its statement following the meeting, making it clear that it intended to continue down its current course :
“Southern Cross Care NSW & ACT has begun preliminary conversations with key stakeholders and suitable service providers around the future of the facility. This does not impact our decision or plans to close St Lawrence.
Our highest priority is still to support our St Lawrence residents to relocate to suitable alternative homes as soon as possible and to consult with staff impacted by the closure.
Since announcing our decision to close, we have been working closely with residents and their nominated representative to understand their preferences for finding suitable alternative accommodation.
It is our intention that residents are given a sense of certainty and security by settling them into their new home as soon as possible. We cannot provide any specific details due to privacy reasons”.
On 8th February 2021 the Aged Care Workforce Industry Council launched the Voluntary Industry Code of Practice.
When asked about its attitude towards the Voluntary Code, which fifteen aged care organisations have pledged to follow and seven have agreed to support, Southern Cross Care responded :
“In regards to the Aged Care Voluntary Industry Code of Practice, SCC is aware of the industry code and always welcomes initiatives aimed at driving excellence in aged care. We are currently reviewing this in line with our quality and governance framework.”
The Hon Michael McCormack MP, Member for Riverina, the local Member of Federal Parliament representing the electors of Harden, and with responsibility for keeping a watchful eye on the delivery of Aged Care services in the electorate, made the following statement after the meeting:
“It is disappointing to hear the St Lawrence Residential Aged Care facility in Harden is shutting down over the course of the next few months.
“My thoughts are with the families and staff affected by this decision. I have spoken with locals about this situation and I know it is very distressing for all involved.
“I was only informed of this closure after the staff and family were told and, as soon as I was notified, contacted the Aged Care Services Minister. I have also spoken with Hilltops Mayor Brian Ingram and Southern Cross Care CEO Helen Emerson.
“I have been informed there have been issues recruiting staff and bed occupancy, which were major factors in what is a commercial decision by Southern Cross Care to close the privately owned facility.
“Other aged care providers have been contacted regarding this situation and we will see if anything comes of this.
“In the meantime, I will continue to work on this issue and I am doing all I can to find a resolution or a way forward that suits all residents and their families.”
The CEO of the Harden Murrumburrah Regional Development Corporation, Chris Ireland, also issued a statement after the meeting in which he stated:
“All government and local representatives at the meeting came to a very quick conclusion that an aged care facility (in addition to the local hospital aged care service) with our twin towns must continue…. HRDC will be forming a Committee to look at the potential operation of the site under a Community not-for-profit entity much like facilities in neighbouring towns.”
Hopefully, the residents of Harden Murrumburrah will be able to look forward to the restoration of services at the St. Lawrence facility in the not too distant future. Sadly, this will be too late for the current residents and their families.