Flexible aged care for country town

Health Minister Nicola Roxon has announced new aged care places for a small country town, but the facility to house them is yet to be built.

Above: Member for Parkes, Mark Coulton, of the National Party.

By Stephen Easton

The federal Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon, last week announced funding for six new aged care places for the rural NSW town of Gulgong, although the actual facility to provide them is yet to be built, and the details of who will pay are yet to be hammered out between state and federal governments.

Ms Roxon announced $305,000 to pay for new flexible places that could be used for high care, transitional aged care, rehabilitation care or palliative care, as part of the Multi-Purpose Health Service (MPS) proposed for Gulgong by the NSW government.

“There is widespread support in the Gulgong community to establish a Multi-Purpose Service, so I know today’s announcement will be strongly welcomed by the local community,” Ms Roxon said.

“The proposed Multi-Purpose Service will form part of the HealthOne facility being constructed on the old Gulgong Hospital site.” 

Federal Member for Parkes, Mark Coulton, said that like many country towns, Gulgong’s need for aged care had long been ignored by federal politicians but now, recognition would pave the way for the new facility.

“The hurdle of the allocation of the aged care beds is what was holding it up all along,” Mr Coulton said. “One of the reasons I believe that there wasn’t an MPS built before the old hospital got beyond repair is there wasn’t recognition of the aged care need in Gulgong.”

“What’s been promised now [by the NSW Government] is that they’re building the HealthOne. They’ve now got a commitment from the federal government to fund the aged care places and they can put in a proposal for an MPS to be co-located with the HealthOne. 

“We’ve got a long way to go, but when I first went to Canberra a couple of years ago and Justine Elliot was the Minister [for Mental Health and Ageing], there just wasn’t the recognition for the aged care beds needed. Now I believe there shouldn’t be too many impediments, now we’ve got this process underway.”

Just one day before Nicola Roxon’s announcement, the NSW Health Minister, Jillian Skinner, announced that a new multi-purpose HealthOne facility would replace Gulgong’s old hospital, which was closed last year due to asbestos concerns.

Construction of the new HealthOne facility, she said, would be completed next year on the site of the old hospital, which had been declared unfit for use due to the contamination. 

In NSW, HealthOne facilities provide one location for a mix of both state and Commonwealth-funded health services, including emergency, General Practice, primary care nursing, community nursing, child and family health services, allied health services and pathology. 

Ms Skinner said the NSW Government was willing to contribute to the capital costs of upgrading Gulgong’s HealthOne facility to deliver the proposed MPS, but would need “significant support from the Commonwealth” with the ongoing upkeep costs.

“I am aware the health needs of the Gulgong community may change over time and in consultation with the local Member for Orange, Andrew Gee, I have asked that the new facility is designed to be expanded to an appropriate MPS,” she said. “This is not about making rash decisions; this is about delivering timely quality health care and offering a sensible long term solution for patients.”

Mr Coulton said the funding for aged care places would mean Gulgong residents can age in their home town, and that couples would no longer be separated when only one member requires residential care, problems that he agreed are common to many regional areas.

Tags: aged, aged-care, ageing, andrew-gee, commonwealth-funding, country-town, gulgong, healthone, jillian-skinner, justine-elliot, mark-coulton, member-for-parkes, minister-for-health-and-ageing, mps, multi-purpose-health-service, nicola-roxon, nsw-government, rural-and-regional, rural-and-regional-healthcare,

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