‘All of us are struggling': regional Australia's aged care homes strain to stay viable

Wayne Prosser remembers the day the closure of his father’s nursing home was announced in the small town of Harden on the south-west slopes of New South Wales.

“It was horrendous,” he says. “They called a meeting…and said we’re closing within six weeks.”

Prosser, a lifetime farmer like his father, Rusty, says the distress around the room at the St Lawrence Residential Aged Care nursing home quickly spilled into the community.

“Staff were crying … my dad’s eyes were boggling. He just said … ‘What now?’

Related: Our new Rural Network will expand Guardian Australia’s reach and tell stories that resonate | Lenore Taylor

The decision by the not-for-profit Southern Cross Care to close the home in January blindsided the town and the local council. “The way they dealt with it … it was just inhumane,” Prosser says.

The 35 residents were offered a place in nearby homes owned by SCC including Cootamundra or Young. Most took up the offer while a small number, including Rusty, managed to find a bed at the local hospital.

Others made their own arrangements. SCC told residents the home would not close until all had found alternative accommodation.

The chief executive of Southern Cross Care (NSW & ACT), Helen Emmerson, apologised to the community for not fully explaining the reasoning behind the sudden announcement, saying: “Our process for communication was unsuitable, especially for a close-knit community like Harden.”

But she went on to say numerous factors had led to the decision.

“There was no option to responsibly keep it open in the long term,” Emmerson said.

“Inadequate funding, staff shortages, occupancy challenges, limited allied health services and a lack of after-hours support services, including pharmacy and GP access, made it challenging to maintain the quality of care, safety and support necessary at St Lawrence.

“This was not sustainable in the long term and did not meet stringent standards of care.”

The closure of St Lawrence highlights a crisis in country nursing homes, with more than half of homes still losing money even after the federal government’s viability payments to assist with the higher costs of providing services in rural and remote areas.

These payments increased in March 2019 and then again in March 2020, in response to the pandemic, but aged care facilities continue to struggle.

The crisis is expected to worsen as facilities face more regulation, nursing and aged care worker shortages and the financial strain of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Related: Rural Australia has stories to tell that will interest the world. Here’s how we’ll report them | Gabrielle Chan

The accounting advisory StewartBrown’s quarterly survey of 1,200 nursing homes across the country is the largest benchmark available on the aged care sector’s financials. In March 2020, 69% of rural and remote nursing homes were losing money. By March 2021 this had dropped to 52%. For inner-regional nursing homes, the percentages losing money were 62% and 56% respectively.

But while the government’s temporary Covid funding injection to the aged care sector boosted country nursing homes, the payments were available only in the short term so the number of unprofitable country nursing homes is expected to again climb.

A StewartBrown senior partner, Grant Corderoy, says the survey shows that “the viability of regional, rural and remote providers is of great concern”.

Rural providers have lower cohorts in terms of the number of residents and staff and operate on smaller scales, he says, which make them less viable than metropolitan facilities.

‘The current funding model and the viability supplement to the remote providers doesn’t cover this additional operational and financial burden, and the challenge of getting and retaining staff,” Corderoy says.

  • Sign up to receive Guardian Australia’s fortnightly Rural Network email newsletter

His comments also reflect the final report from the royal commission into aged care, which expressed concern for services in regional, rural and remote areas where older people make up a greater share of the population than in major cities.

“The availability of aged care in regional, rural and remote areas is poor – and it is worsening,” its report said.

There are around 1.4 million people aged over 65 living in regional, rural and remote Australia. On average, older people in the regions have lower incomes, poorer education and poorer health outcomes, increasing the need for support in older age.

The royal commission also highlighted that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people do not get the care required for their levels of need, creating barriers for First Nations people.

“These arise from social and economic disadvantage, a lack of culturally safe care, and the ongoing impacts of colonisation and prolonged discrimination. Access issues are further compounded by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s additional vulnerability arising from higher rates of disability, co-morbidities, homelessness and dementia.”

Related: Australia’s aged care workforce under strain amid international bordure closure, provider warns

The government has accepted the royal commission’s recommendation that all people have equal rights to aged care but how such rights will be realised in rural communities is unclear, given the continual closures.

Tara in Queensland, Harden and Eden in NSW and Whyalla in South Australia are just some of the towns to have been told their nursing homes aren’t viable.

The accounting firm BDO highlighted in a research paper that the federal government’s aged care data did not trace where providers – many of which are big entities that run multiple businesses – were moving government funding, profits and their residents’ refundable deposit money. Nor could the viability of rural and regional nursing homes be assessed separately from city homes.

‘The issues started with privatisation’

The demise of a nursing home in a small town like Harden has multiple knock-on effects.

Cowra Residential Village – 90 minutes’ drive from Harden – entered into negotiations to take over St Lawrence but failed to secure $4m in federal funding needed to buy it. With no other parties putting up their hands, the home’s future remains a serious concern for locals.

Scott Kable, the chief executive of Cowra Retirement Village, or “Bilyara” as it is known locally, is frank in his description of the challenges. “Rural areas are losing nursing homes,” he says. “All of us are struggling. The underlying deficits have been going on for many years.”

Like many rural providers, Cowra’s facility is not remote enough to qualify for the government’s viability supplement.

“Government funding has increased by 1.1% CPI but salaries and wages – our largest single cost – have increased by 2.5%. So the increase in costs are not offset by the 1.1% revenue,” Kable says.

Covid costs had also exacerbated the pressue. “We have spent $200k meeting Covid requirements, $100k of which was unfunded. Costs have come from paying extra cleaning, administration staff, personal protective equipment and emergency supplies stored in crates in the event of an outbreak.”

While the government has responded to the royal commission by providing an extra basic fee of $10 a person a day – separate to the viability supplements – this only covers housekeeping and food.

“It doesn’t help us put an extra nurse on the floor,” Kable says. “There was no money in the budget to increase salaries or wages of aged care workers.”

Attracting aged care workers to Cowra has also been a challenge while hospitals are competing for staff in the pandemic and skilled migration has dropped away.

Related: Most aged care homes on track to meet Australia’s deadline for mandatory staff Covid vaccinations

The latest government data on the aged care workforce dates back to 2016, when there were reported skill shortages in 53% of residential facilities and a 32% dependency on overseas-born workers.

The information gap was highlighted in a report by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia. It said the data was not detailed enough to estimate the number of aged care workers, what roles they were in and how the workforce had changed over the years. It estimated that Australia would need 17,000 more aged care workers each 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 the next generation of older residents are cared for.

While Wayne managed to secure a local hospital bed for his father, Rusty’s health deteriorated rapidly soon after the move. He died a couple of months later, at the age of 90. His fellow resident Norma Butler also died shortly after being moved out of St Lawrence.

The mayor of the local Hilltops council, Brian Ingram, says it has neither the money nor capacity to run the home.

“The issues started a long time ago with privatisation … this is a federal government issue.”

  • Sign up for the Rural Network email newsletter

  • Join the Rural Network group on Facebook to be part of the community

Internet Explorer Channel Network
News Related


Sudan's military takeover: Is this the end of the revolution?

It has been two and half years since Sudanese protesters peacefully overthrew their dictator Omar al-Bashir in a jubilant moment for Sudan. But the path to democracy has not run ... Read more »

NFL referee Carl Madsen dies after working Chiefs-Titans game

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Carl Madsen, who worked as an NFL on-field umpire and then as a replay official, died Sunday. He was 71. The league confirmed Monday that Madsen, who ... Read more »

We are filmmakers who work with guns. Here's what to consider about the Alec Baldwin shooting

Prop Set de película de arma de fuego (Copyright 2021 Santa Fe New Mexican) In a horrendous accident, a cinematographer has died and a director has been injured after Alec ... Read more »

Dave Chappelle ‘not bending to anyone's demands' in Netflix row

Dave Chappelle claims to have been uninvited from film festivals around the world as the comedian took a swipe at “cancel” culture following an outcry over jokes made in his ... Read more »

Revealed: 60% of Americans say oil firms are to blame for the climate crisis

A majority of Americans want to see oil and gas companies held to account for lying about the climate crisis and contributing to global heating, according to a new YouGov ... Read more »

NFL World Reacts To Monday's Joe Flacco News

The New York Jets will likely be without rookie quarterback Zach Wilson for the next few weeks, so the organization made a move on Monday to bring in some veteran ... Read more »

Pep Guardiola can use Jurgen Klopp blueprint to dismantle Manchester United

A monumental game of football took place in Manchester on Sunday afternoon, with one team dramatically suffering at the hands of another. As Pep Guardiola rested with three points already ... Read more »

Covid Cases Spike Post Festivities in Bengal, Kolkata Police Keeps Vigil Eye on Violators

© Provided by News18 Covid Cases Spike Post Festivities in Bengal, Kolkata Police Keeps Vigil Eye on Violators As Coronavirus cases continue to surge in West Bengal, police have ramped ... Read more »

Tiny Nicaragua is becoming a big problem for Joe Biden

On the sidelines of an international gathering in Costa Rica earlier this year, Secretary of State Antony Blinken tried to make headway with the foreign minister of a government that ... Read more »

Dean Smith uses Jack Grealish rallying cry to galvanise Aston Villa stars 'upset' over critics

Aston Villa head coach Dean Smith told his players at the start of the season to prove critics wrong that they weren’t a part of a one-man team while Jack ... Read more »

Stop seeing new patients, union tells GPs as it hits out at Sajid Javid

GP surgery – Anthony Devlin/PA GPs are being told by the British Medical Association to stop seeing new patients, with the union accusing Sajid Javid of creating a “bully's charter” ... Read more »

Julian Assange extradition appeal: US assurances to challenge legal team

Photograph: Tom Nicholson/Reuters It has been a year that began with a legal defeat for a bid to extradite Julian Assange to face espionage charges in the US, though he ... Read more »

Lori Ann Talens: Extreme couponers were sent to prison in $31.8 million fraud scheme

The FBI is revealing new details about a $31.8 million counterfeit coupon scheme that landed a Virginia Beach couple in prison for nearly 20 years, combined. © FBI During a ... Read more »

Late Constable, review: it's hard to imagine a more invigorating display of bravura painting

Constable’s Rainstorm over the sea (1824-1828) (detail) – Royal Academy of Arts It’s been a long time coming. Although he studied at its Schools, and was eventually elected to its ... Read more »

Who are the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases?

China is by the far the biggest overall emitter of greenhouse gases (Getty Images) At this year’s United Nations COP26 climate conference, attempts to limit greenhouse gas emissions will be ... Read more »

ASEAN chair Brunei says Myanmar should be given space to return to normalcy

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN (Reuters) – Myanmar should be given space to return to normalcy in line with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) principle of non-interference, the bloc’s chair ... Read more »

Snoop Dogg mourns mom's death: "An angel for a mother"

Snoop Dogg’s mother, Beverly Tate, has died, the rapper announced on Sunday. In the wake of her death, Snoop has posted a series of photos and videos of his mother ... Read more »

Security analytics firm Devo Technology valued at $1.5 billion after latest funding

(Reuters) – Devo Technology, a security analytics company, said on Tuesday it has raised $250 million at a valuation of $1.5 billion in a funding round led by Silicon Valley ... Read more »

Iran says cyberattack closes gas stations across country

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A cyberattack targeted gas stations Tuesday across Iran, shutting down a government system managing fuel subsidies and leaving angry motorists stranded in long lines ... Read more »

Jack Ma's speech costs Alibaba shareholders $344 billion: Reports

© Reuters Jack Ma’s speech costs Alibaba shareholders $344 billion: Reports Chinese billionaire Jack Ma-founded Alibaba Group Holdings lost a whopping $344 billion in market capitalisation post Beijing’s crackdown, reported ... Read more »

4 New Suspense Books To Read This Fall

© Provided by Chatelaine A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins A young man is found dead on a houseboat moored along London’s ... Read more »

Hema Malini and Dharmendra look made for each other in new pic

Hema Malini shared a new photo with Dharmendra. Hema Malini shared a new photo of herself and husband Dharmendra on Instagram today, October 26. The actress thanked her fans and ... Read more »

Lockheed clips revenue outlook on supply chain woes

By Mike Stone © Reuters/Kim Kyung Hoon Lockheed Martin’s logo is seen during Japan Aerospace 2016 air show in Tokyo WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. weapons maker Lockheed Martin Corp lowered ... Read more »

Hormonaktive Substanzen: Mikroplastik bringt Schadstoffe in die Fische

Dass Mikroplastik wasserunlösliche Schadstoffe aufnehmen kann, war bekannt. Nun haben Forscher der ETH Lausanne (EPFL) nachgewiesen, dass diese Schadstoffe im Verdauungssystem von Fischen herausgelöst werden und möglicherweise in die Nahrungsmittelkette ... Read more »

I feel I have a parallel love story with horror genre: Emraan Hashmi

© Provided by Zee News MUMBAI: Ahead of the release of his horror film ‘Dybbuk’, actor Emraan Hashmi opened up about his connection with the particular genre. “I feel I ... Read more »

Rahul Dravid Applies for Indian Cricket Team Head Coach Job on Deadline Day

© Provided by News18 Rahul Dravid Applies for Indian Cricket Team Head Coach Job on Deadline Day Former India captain Rahul Dravid has formally applied for position of national team’s ... Read more »

First look of Kajal Aggarwal's 'Uma' out

© IANS Kajal aggarwal. Mumbai, Oct 26 (IANS) The poster of the upcoming film ‘Uma’ starring Kajal Aggarwal released on Tuesday, gives a glimpse of the characters from the film. ... Read more »

BAG meldet 1491 neue Coronavirus-Fälle innerhalb von 24 Stunden

© KEYSTONE/DPA/WOLFGANG KUMM In der Schweiz und in Liechtenstein sind dem Bundesamt für Gesundheit (BAG) am Dienstag innerhalb von 24 Stunden 1491 neue Coronavirus-Ansteckungen gemeldet worden. Gleichzeitig registrierte das BAG ... Read more »

Zeitumstellung 2021: Unsere Experten-Tipps, wenn die Uhr zurückgestellt wird

© Letizia Le Fur Zeitumstellung 2021: Die Winterzeit steht an – wir haben die besten Tipps zur Zeitumstellung Wann ist die Zeitumstellung 2021? Und drehen wir die Uhren vor oder ... Read more »

Einblicke in das Allerheiligste der internationalen Finanzwelt

© KEYSTONE/GEORGIOS KEFALAS Die Bank für Internationalen Zahlungsausgleich, kurz BIZ, in Basel öffnet zu ihrem 90-jährigen Bestehen für zehn Tage ihre Tore. Erstmals kann das Publikum bis an die Spitze ... Read more »

Pendedahan Pandelela isu gangguan seksual jurulatih raih perhatian menteri, Akta Sukan Selamat bakal digubal

PENDEDAHAN dilakukan oleh atlet terjun negara, Datuk Pandelela Rinong mengenai isu gangguan seksual dialaminya serta rakan-rakan atlet yang lain telah mendapat perhatian ramai. Pemenang pingat perak dan gangsa Sukan Olimpik ... Read more »

Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 Vaccine for Young Children to Be Reviewed by FDA Panel

© PFIZER/VIA REUTERS Powered by Microsoft News Experts advising the Food and Drug Administration are scheduled to meet Tuesday to consider endorsing the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech ... Read more »

KDAFC masih belum selamat

© Provided by Sinar Harian BIARPUN Kedah Darul Aman FC (KDAFC) memperolehi enam mata percuma susulan Negeri Sembilan FC mengumumkan menarik diri daripada saingan TM Piala Malaysia 2021, ia dilihat ... Read more »

Unexpected snag that could dash your overseas holiday hopes - and it has nothing to do with Covid vaccines, quarantine or testing

A third of airport ground crew have quit the industry during the pandemicMore than 50 airports across the nation will be affected by worker shortagesHundreds of flights will have to be cancelled  as a result, warns industry chiefImpact will be felt for months after Australia re-opens for international travel  Read more »

Why China IS responsible for climate change: Shocking data shows country is the world's second-largest polluter going back to 1850 – despite Beijing insisting the West's industrial revolution is to blame

China has made weak commitments to cut carbon emissions, and won't attend COP26 summit next monthBeijing argues this is because western nations which industrialised first bear historic blame for climate crisis But new analysis shows China is still the second-biggest polluter, even if emissions back to 1850 are includedWhile it is true that China industrialised decades after the West, its staggering rate of growth in recent decades and dependency on coal means it quickly leap-frogged other nations   Read more »

WTO panel to examine Australia-China wine dispute - trade source

© Reuters/FLORENCE LO Bottles of Australian wine are seen at a store selling imported wine in Beijing GENEVA (Reuters) – The World Trade Organization on Tuesday agreed to set up ... Read more »

Explainer-Greenwashing: deception and vague promises that do not help the environment

(Reuters) – What seems friendly to the environment but is not? Greenwashing. © Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi FILE PHOTO: A child embraces a globe shaped balloon during a rally held ahead of ... Read more »

Israel envoy to visit US after NGOs labelled ‘terrorists'

© Provided by Al Jazeera Israel’s decision to designate six civil society groups as ‘terrorists’ has been condemned by rights groups [File: Majdi Mohammed/The Associated Press] Israel will send an ... Read more »

Nor'easter hits East as more stormy weather forecast for West

A nor’easter developing off the New Jersey coast will bring high winds, scattered storms and heavy rainfall until Wednesday evening.  CALIFORNIA BAY AREA DOUSED BY RAIN  Rainfall totals will be ... Read more »

British diplomat who witnessed Abu Dhabi history dies days before 100th birthday

© Provided by The National Sheikh Zayed meets with Archie Lamb, the British political agent in Abu Dhabi from 1965 to 1968. National Archives Albert “Archie” Lamb, a British diplomat ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic