House debates

Thursday, 17 February 2022

Questions without Notice

Aged Care

2:07 pm

Photo of Kristy McBainKristy McBain (Eden-Monaro, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the Prime Minister aware that in Bombala in my electorate an aged-care home has announced it will be forced to close? This is on top of another closure in Eden in December last year. The aged-care provider says it is not sustainable nor responsible to have existing staff working double shifts with no respite or reserves on stand-by. The health department says six other aged-care facilities are in the process of closing their doors. When will the Prime Minister stop playing political games, do his job and fix this crisis?

2:08 pm

Photo of Greg HuntGreg Hunt (Flinders, Liberal Party, Minister for Health and Aged Care) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Eden-Monaro for her question. I am aware of the facilities in question, in particular the Currawarna Residential Aged Care facility in Bombala as well as the Swansea Tenison Residential Aged Care facility, both of which are operated by Southern Cross Care. At my request, the Department of Health is today meeting with the council, with representatives of the state government and with representatives of the community. They are examining options to deal with this particular facility. We have, to date, already provided $808,000 in the Business Improvement Fund to the Snowy Monaro Regional Council and an additional $80,000 to the Bombala MultiPurpose Service for capital upgrades to improve that service. Whilst this is a particular decision of a particular provider, we have stepped in to intervene immediately.

The other thing to note, though—and I want to respond specifically to the member's point—is that, contrary to that which was set out, the number of new services opening over the last five years, and in the last year, has vastly outnumbered the number of closures. There are facilities that open and facilities that close. There are six times as many homes that have opened over the last five years—288, on the advice I have from the department—as opposed to those that have closed, which number 48. That is a very different position from that which was presented during the course of the question.

The second thing is that even last year, during the course of the pandemic, during one of the most difficult and challenging years that facilities have faced, in that 2020-21 financial year almost four times as many homes opened as closed. There were 46 new residential aged-care facilities that opened around Australia, and the advice I have is that there were 12 facilities that closed during the course of that time. What does that mean? That means that there are facilities in the natural course of events that will commence, and there are those facilities which will close and which will ensure that those residents are placed in a care situation. That's what we're doing here.

We recognise that these two facilities are of real importance to the community. That's why we've stepped in with the $808,000 Business Improvement Fund. That's also why we have stepped in with an absolute requirement that the facilities remain operating until each resident is taken care of. That is also why we have stepped in, at my specific request, with the very meeting which is occurring today involving the health department, the council, state government representatives and the community. It is my hope that, working together, we'll be able to provide additional support for families, residents and an ongoing program of assistance.