Aged and disabled care advocate Mary Walsh, whose mother waited 13 years for a bed, said the system was a disgrace.
Aged and disabled care advocate Mary Walsh, whose mother waited 13 years for a bed, said the system was a disgrace. Rob Barich

Our aged care disgrace

WHILE demand for aged care soars, there are still 240 beds, costing $50 million, missing in action from Bundaberg.

Pensioners are queuing up to take one of the 376 high-care and 395 low-care beds that are available now — but although the waiting list is set to soar, development delays have kept people waiting years for new places.

Aged and disabled care advocate Mary Walsh, whose mother waited 13 years for a bed, said the system was a disgrace.

“The waiting lists are extremely long, and developers are not going forward with beds because it is getting harder to have them built,” she said.

“The aged care sector is really a mess.”

The Department of Health and Ageing allocated 120 bed licences more than a year ago, to a facility that is in such early stages that it has not even lodged a development application.

The 60 high-care and 60 low-care beds were allocated to Lend Lease PrimeLife in June last year, for a new facility to be located on land next to its existing The Lakes Retirement Village.

“The company is continuing to undertake market research and planning for the site, as part of its preparation for a development application for the aged care facility,” a spokesperson said.

Developers Japara Holdings have struggled with repeated delays for their 120-bed home on Bargara Road, Kalkie.

The bed licences were transferred to the facility from Carlyle Gardens and The Lakes Retirement Village in 2008, but despite two extensions, the beds are yet to materialise.

Initially, the developers hoped to have the facility up and running by mid-to-late 2009, but Japara Holdings development manager Joel Wertheimer said a revised deadline was in place for late 2011 or early 2012.

Although the bed licences will expire again at the end of the year, he said there should be no problems increasing the cut-off date.

“By then we will have taken some significant steps to show cause why we should have another extension,” Mr Wertheimer said.

He said the project had become bogged down by negotiations with their financiers over loan conditions, although the funding was still available.

“Because of the way the government funds aged care, and the complex conditions that need to be met by lenders, it is a difficult situation,” he said.

Aged Care Queensland chief executive officer Anton Kardash said many regional areas were facing the same problem — but not all lenders were as flexible.

“In its current form, aged care is not a viable industry,” Mr Kardash said.

He said the earning potential of aged care facilities was limited by stringent government regulations, which meant many developers were shying away from the sector.

“The average return for investment in aged care is just under 2% — they could just take the money they would be spending, and put it in a bank to earn 6% interest,” Mr Kardash said.

“The cost of building is going up significantly — the average cost for a single bed ensuite is $22,000, plus the cost of land.”

He said the government needed to fast-track reforms in the industry, to prevent an aged care crisis.

“People cannot sustain this level of economic viability,” he said.

He said about 60% of aged care facilities reported trouble maintaining service levels on their limited funds.

Member for Hinkler Paul Neville also called for more support for the region's frail, aged and disabled.

“I think there's room for local government to be more accommodating in helping nursing home providers get their facilities planned and approved. One of the complaints I receive from providers and potential providers is the complexity and slowness of approvals,” he said.

“We have more seniors needing a bed than ever before and regional centres simply don't have the capacity to cope if the beds aren't in place.”



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