Riverina MP Michael McCormack says he'll use the "little bit of sway" he has as deputy prime minister to ensure the future of aged care services in Harden.
Mr McCormack spoke to Harden residents via zoom during a community meeting attended by Hilltops councillors and Cootamundra MP Steph Cooke on Tuesday evening at the Mechanics Institute at Harden.
The meeting was called by mayor Brian Ingram to discuss the future of aged care services in Harden, after last month Southern Cross Care NSW & ACT announced it was closing the St Lawrence aged care facility.
All residents have now transitioned from St Lawrence.
At the community meeting, Mr McCormack said service providers in Cowra and Temora are investigating the possibility of acquiring the facility, along with the 33 beds associated with it.
He said while the beds are funded by the federal government, they are owned by Southern Cross Care.
Mr McCormack said this was "one of the difficulties" becoming a "commercial decision" for Southern Cross Care.
One person at the meeting asked what would happen if Southern Cross Care transfers the beds out of the area to another site.
"One of the difficulties is that the aged care beds which are associated with a particular facility are owned by the provider, are owned by the business. And of course as you know, this has become a commercial decision - I use that in term perhaps in inverted commas - by Southern Cross," Mr McCormack said.
"We certainly don't want [the beds] being transferred out of the district, or out of Harden. If that ends up being the worst possible scenario that does eventuate I'll do everything in my power to get sufficient replacement beds for Harden.
"I'm encouraged by the fact other providers in and around the area - one in Cowra, one in Temora - would like to have a look at the books, would like to investigate the possibility of perhaps acquiring the site, obviously acquire the beds, to see if they can continue the service that has been provided to Harden residents over the past 13 years."
Mr McCormack said he couldn't believe that there was low demand for beds at St Lawrence.
"I can't fathom how that demand had somehow fallen. If it had then that would be probably the only community in Australia that had reduced demand for aged care services," he said.
"I will do everything I can, and obviously I'm deputy prime minister so that comes with a little bit of sway, to ensure that we continue to have aged care beds and services in Harden."
A Southern Cross Care NSW & ACT spokesperson said SCC did not receive an invitation to speak at the community meeting in Harden on Tuesday, organised by Hilltops Council.
The spokesperson said "preliminary conversations" had started in relation to the future of the facility.
"Southern Cross Care NSW & ACT acknowledges the Harden community's disappointment about the closure of St Lawrence. With the assistance of their supportive families and SCC, all residents have been transitioned from St Lawrence. Most residents chose to remain within 40km of Harden, and some residents have chosen SCC homes further afield, to be closer to their family," the spokesperson said.
"We appreciate that despite the short distance from Harden, this change has had an emotional impact on the residents, their families and the community. SCC is continuing to work with residents and families during this transitional period with the support of an SCC mental health nurse and our engagement team.
"SCC has begun preliminary conversations with key stakeholders and suitable service providers around the future of the facility."
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