Dubbo Regional Council could have considered buying Wellington aged care facility Bellhaven had it known that owner Orana Gardens Ltd was seeking to have it deregistered, says mayor Ben Shields.
“Given the strength of local government in the aged care industry, purchasing Bellhaven is an option council could have looked at if given the chance,” he told the Daily Liberal.
Last week Orana Gardens Ltd announced the closure of 46-bed Bellhaven “on or about” October 7 because of a decline in resident numbers and rising costs that made it “unviable”.
Cr Shields met with Orana Gardens Ltd personnel on Monday where he was informed that it had made a submission to the federal government to have the facility deregistered.
“As a result we are unable to investigate any reasonable options to keep the service going,” he said.
Cr Shields admitted to dismissing a rumour that Bellhaven was closing before the surprise announcement.
“Wellington is benefiting from increased economic growth and Australia’s population is ageing so I couldn’t see any way one of the town’s two aged care facilities could be failing while the other was expanding,” he said.
The mayor has called the imminent closure of the facility a “blow to the town” and taken a swipe at Orana Gardens Ltd over job losses.
“I can’t believe that one of Wellington’s biggest employers, with around 50 employees who live there or nearby at Stuart Town, Mumbil or Dubbo, could close without talking to council,” he said.
The mayor noted that Bellhaven residents faced the “daunting process” of moving to Maranatha House in Wellington or other aged care facilities in Dubbo.
Last week president of Maranatha House’s board of directors, John Trounce, said a federal government grant was covering about half the cost of construction of its new $6 million wing.
He also told of a rush of new aged care beds in Dubbo and Orange reducing “our catchment”.
Orana Gardens Ltd declined to respond to the mayor’s comments.
In a brief statement released last week, it advised that “quality, alternative accommodation” had been found for all residents of Bellhaven “at no additional costs”.
Orana Gardens Ltd chief executive officer Kristine Saywaker said “assistance with relocation will be provided free of charge”.
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