14 June 2023
The situation facing Yackandandah Health is serious and reflects the difficulties being experienced by the aged care sector, especially across regional and rural Australia. As a former Board Member of St Catherine’s Residential Aged Care in Wangaratta, I am acutely aware of these pressures.
In response to some questions from the community, I wanted to update you on the work I have been doing regarding Yackandandah Health to ensure it remains in operation.
I am well aware of the situation facing Yackandandah Health, in particular for the approximately 80 residents of the aged care facility and their families, for whom this must be an incredibly stressful time. I have done significant work to ensure that Yackandandah Health remains in operation. My advocacy for the future of this service has always been with those aged care residents at the top of mind, as well as the staff, and the wider community who access the child care and general practice services.
Yackandandah Health is currently supported by the Structural Adjustment Fund (SAF), a Federal Government funded program that supports residential aged care providers experiencing serious financial difficulties. The Fund supports providers to move to a new provider and more sustainable financial footing.
I have worked closely with the Aged Care Minister to secure a SAF grant to Yackandandah Health. By moving swiftly to broker the lines of communication between the Yackandandah Health board and the Minister’s office, we ensured that residents remained in their home without sudden closure.
The SAF grant was agreed for a period until June 30 this year, by which time the Yackandandah Health board was to have transitioned to a new provider.
In recent weeks I urgently wrote to the Aged Care Minister on behalf of members of the community, communicating their request that this timeframe be extended by six months. I met with a senior adviser to the Minister late on Wednesday to understand the Government’s position. I believe they understand the concerns in the community however there was no guarantee of an extension to the grant.
The Australian aged care sector is facing significant financial difficulties, particularly in regional, rural and remote Australia. I am aware of other aged care providers in our region who are also facing operating losses and my office has also assisted in those situations.
In other parts of the country, residential aged care facilities in financial difficulty have shut down with little warning, forcing families to find new homes for their loved ones at short notice. I don’t want that outcome for Yackandandah.
The challenges facing the aged care sector, particularly regarding workforce and financial viability are longstanding and well-known. The Aged Care Royal Commission handed down 148 recommendations for reform in 2021, which the Government is still working on delivering. Aged Care Minister Anika Wells is leading a taskforce to examine the funding system for the sector. These reforms are complex and the work of the taskforce will not be completed or implemented within the time that a decision is needed on Yackandandah Health.
The health and care of the Yackandandah community is paramount. I want to reassure the community that I and my office have been paying close attention to the situation facing Yackandandah Health, and have taken action as your Member of Parliament to represent the residents, the board and members of the community more broadly to the Government.
It is a testament to the people of the Yackandandah community and the Yackandandah Health board that this process, while difficult and stressful, is being conducted with care and respect, with the welfare of the community at front of mind.