Scrap over aged-care funding
A MULTI-MILLION dollar expansion planned for Lismore's St Joseph's Nursing Home would not have been able to happen under a Coalition government, Page MP Janelle Saffin and Richmond MP and Minister for Ageing Justine Elliot have said.
However, Nationals Page candidate Kevin Hogan said such projects had largely not been happening under Labor either and St Joseph's was one of only 27 aged-care facilities to take up one of the ‘Zero Real Interest Loans' used to fund the expansions during the past three years.
The loans charge interest at the rate of the consumer price index.
Ms Saffin and Ms Elliot yesterday inspected the plans for the $4.4 million expansion at St Joseph's and an extension to the Frank Whiddon Masonic Home at Kyogle to highlight aspects of the Coalition's aged-care policy, which they say would axe the no-interest loans used to fund the expansions.
The expansion at St Joseph's, which is run by St Vincent's Private Hospital, would deliver 20 new aged-care beds.
The Kyogle extension, worth more than $1 million, was completed early this year and delivered an extra nine beds and 10 community care packages. The extra beds were occupied ‘almost immediately'.
St Vincent's chief executive Bob Walsh said the hospital would build an entire new wing at the nursing home to house the high care beds and employ another nine staff to help look after the people using them. The extra beds would turn the nursing home into an 80-bed facility – the minimum it needed to be able to reach ‘break even' status.
Mr Walsh said St Joseph's had 12 years to pay back the loan and interest would be set at the CPI.
Ms Saffin said the no-interest loans were ‘critical' in Page, particularly given the region's rapidly growing and ageing population.
“A lot of us are going to want these services and it's really important to plan ahead and to expand,” she said.
Ms Saffin said the benefit of the no-interest loans went beyond providing new beds and nursing homes.
“The loans don't just mean more aged care places, they mean construction jobs, a boost to the local economy and more jobs in the aged care sector,” she said.
Ms Elliot lashed the Coalition's aged-care policy, which cut the no-interest loans, and which she said contained no new money, no new beds and ignored a national shortage of aged-care nurses.
Mr Hogan rejected Ms Elliot's claims, saying the Coalition's policy delivered $935 million over four years to aged care, including measures to keep people well and out of hospitals or nursing homes or to get them well and back into their own homes when they did end up in hospital.
Within that money was $355 million aimed at turning 3000 unused bed licences at Australian nursing homes into real beds.
Mr Hogan said Australian nursing homes had about 25,000 unused bed licences.
The Coalition policy aimed to make sure some of those phantom beds were made real within the next few years by giving nursing homes $30,000 per bed.
That money was intended to help cover staffing as well as any construction costs and the bed itself. As to the no-interest loans, Mr Hogan said they would be scrapped by a Coalition government because they weren't being used and because nursing homes were complaining they were overly complicated. He said only 27 nursing homes had taken up a no-interest loan.
However, Ms Elliot said the scheme had delivered 111 new aged care places since it was introduced after the 2007 election and another 848 places were in the planning and construction phase.