Wayne Prosser remembers the day the house closed her father's retirement was announced in the small town of Harden on the southwestern slopes of New South Wales .
" It was horrible, "he said. "They called a meeting ... and said we were closing in six weeks.
Prosser, a lifelong farmer like his father, Rusty, says distress around the room at St Lawrence Nursing Home quickly spread throughout the community.
“The staff were crying… my father's eyes were astounding. Ithe just said ... 'What now? '
The decision of the nonprofit Southern Cross Care to close the house in January has blinded the city and the local council. "The way they handled it ... it was just inhuman," said Prosser.
Relatives of the 35 residents have had to scramble to find alternative beds for loved ones on short notice, mostly in other cities. A couple, including Rusty, managed to secure a bed at the local hospital.
Southern Cross Care (NSW & ACT) Executive Director Helen Emmerson , apologized to the community for not fully explaining the reasoning behind the sudden announcement, stating, “Our communication process was not suitable, especially for a tight-knit community like Harden.
But she went on to say that many factors had ledto this decision.
"There was no option to keep it open in a responsible manner for the long term " said Emmerson.
"Inadequate funding, staff shortage, occupancy issues, Health services and lack of support services after hours, including access pharmacies and general practitioners, have made it difficult to maintain the quality of care, safety and support needed in St Lawrence.
"This is n ' was unsustainable in the long term and did not meet strict standards of care.
Saint-Laurent's closure highlights a crisis in nursing homes in the countryside, with more than half of homes still losing money 'money even after federal sustainability payments to help cover the higher costs of providing services in rural areasand remote.
These payments increased in March 2019, and then again in March 2020, in response to the pandemic, but elderly care facilities continue to struggle .
The crisis is expected to worsen as institutions face more regulation, nursing and elderly care shortages and financial pressure of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Accounting a dvisory StewartBrown 's quarterly survey of 1,200 nursing homes across the country is the most large reference available on financial data for the elderly care sector. In March 2020, 69% of rural and remote nursing homes were losing money. In March 2021, this figure had fallen to 52% . For nursing homes in theIn the interior region, the money loss percentages were 62% and 56% respectively.
But while the temporary injection of Covid funds from the Government in the elderly care sector has boosted the country nursing homes, payments were only available in the short term, so the number of unprofitable nursing homes is expected to rise again.
A senior partner of StewartBrown, Grant Corderoy, says the survey shows that "the viability of regional, rural and remote suppliers is of great concern".
Rural suppliers have a lower coho rate. rts in terms of number of residents and staff and operate on a smaller scale, he says, making them less viable than metro facilities.
' The current funding model and the sustainability supplementity to remote vendors does not cover this additional operational and financial burden, nor the challenge of recruiting and retaining staff, ”Corderoy explains.
His comments also reflect the final report of the Royal Commission on the Care of the Elderly, which expressed concern for services in regional, rural and remote areas where older people make up a larger share of the population than in large cities.
" The availability of care for the elderly in rural, rural and remote areas is poor - and it is getting worse ”, his the report says .
There are about 1.4 million older people over 65 year old living in regional, rural and remote Australia. On average, older people in regions have lower incomes, lower education and poorer health outcomes, which increases the need for support among older people.
The Royal Commission also noted that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are not receiving the care they need for their needs, which creates barriers for First Nations people.
"These problems stem from social and economic disadvantage, a lack of culturally safe care and the continuing impacts of colonization and protracted discrimination. Access problems are further compounded by the added vulnerability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.There are higher rates of disability with disease, co-morbidities, homelessness and dementia.
The government has accepted the recommendation of the royal commission that all people have equal rights to care for the elderly but how such rights will be realized in rural communities n 'is not clear, given the continued shutdowns.
Tara in Queensland , Harden and Eden in NSW and Whyalla in South Australia are just a few of the towns that have been told their retirement homes are not viable.
The accounting firm BDO has highlighted in a research paper that federal government senior care data was unable to locate where providers - many of which are large entities that run several businesses - transferred public funds, profits and redeemable deposits from their residents. The viability of rural and regional retirement homes could not be assessed separately from town-based nursing homes either.
The disappearance of a retirement home in a small town like Harden has multiple knock-on effectsment.
Residential village of Cowra - 90 minutes drive from Harden - entered into negotiations to take over St Lawrence but failed to secure $ 4 million dollars in federal funding needed to purchase it. With no other parties to raise their hands, the future of the house remains a serious concern to residents.
Scott Kable, the Managing Director of Cowra Retirement Village, or "Bilyara" as it's known locally, is outspoken in his deion of challenges. “Rural areas are losing nursing homes,” he says. “We are all in trouble. The underlying deficits have lasted for many years. "
Like many rural providers, the Cowra facility is not far enough away to be eligible for government sustainability supplement.
"Public funding increased by 1.1% of CPI, but salareas and treatments - our biggest single cost - increased 2.5%. So the increase in costs is not offset by the 1.1% revenue, "says Kable.
Covid costs had also exacerbated pressure. “We spent $ 200,000 to meet Covid requirements, of which $ 100,000 was unfunded. Costs come from additional cleaning, administrative staff, personal protective equipment, and emergency supplies stored in crates in the event of an outbreak.
While the government responded to the royal commission by providing an additional base fee of $ 10 per person per day - separate from the sustainability supplements - this does covers only housekeeping and food.
"It 's not help us put an extra nurse on the floor", Kable said. "There was no money in the budget to increase the wages or salaries of older social workers.
Attracting older social workers to Cowra has also been a challenge as hospitals compete for staff during the pandemic and skilled migration has declined.
The latest government data on the elderly care workforce dates back to 2016, when skills shortages were reported in 53% of the population. residential facilities and 32% reliance on foreign born workers.
The lack of information was highlighted in a report of the Australian Economic Development Committee. He said the data was not detailed enough to estimate the number of older care workers, their roles and the age.changes in the workforce over the years. He estimated that Australia would need 17,000 older care workers every year for 10 years.
As rural Australians struggle to keep their facilities in their communities, residents like the Prosser family can only hope to ensure that the next generation of older residents are taken care of.
While Wayne managed to secure a local hospital bed for his father, Rusty's health rapidly deteriorated shortly after the move. He died a few months later, at the age of 90. His fellow citizen Norma Butler also died shortly after after being moved out of Saint-Laurent.
Mayor of Hilltops Local Council , Brian Ingram, says that 'he has neither the money nor the capacity to run the house.
"The problems started a long time ago with privatization ... c 'is a matter of the federal government. "