Hundreds of residents and staff at two regional New South Wales aged care homes have been left in limbo after the shock announcement that the Presbyterian Church is stepping away from the businesses.

Key points:

  • Staff and residents at aged care facilities run by the Presbyterian Church at Newcastle and Gosford are in shock they may have to move
  • The church expects another provider will buy the Newcastle facility but will work to relocate residents and staff at its Gosford site
  • The general manager says it is not sustainable for small providers to compete in the industry

The church expects another aged care provider will take over its Wescott nursing home at Stockton in Newcastle but does not have high hopes for its aged care and retirement homes at East Gosford on the Central Coast.

Karen Brechbuhl — whose 86-year-old mother is bedridden and living with dementia at the Gosford facility — said staff and residents were “gobsmacked” when they were informed this week. 

“You could have dropped a pin in the room and heard it,” Ms Brechbuhl said.

“One old lady sitting next to me … she just couldn’t cope at all.

“We thought she was going to have a heart attack.

“You’re sitting in a room full of people that think, at that point in life, that their lives are going to be comfortably safe for what’s left of them and then to have their home taken away from them.

“At least with Mum, thank God she’s not understanding enough for me to even tell her about it.”

Cars parked infront of a beige brick building

Residents believe the church partly made the decision because land values are high in the area.(

ABC Central Coast: Emma Simkin

)

Ms Brechbuhl said she felt sad and bewildered about where her mother would move to.

“The waiting lists and localities. There are a lot of people already having to go out of the area,” she said.

“No matter what, it’s a business. It’s on a prime piece of land.

“You think about this climate with the cost of land and housing just being snatched up without even being looked at. I just can’t see that it’s not a money thing.”

Changing industry partly to blame

Jeof Falls, general manager of the Presbyterian Church of NSW, said it was a difficult decision the trustees had been weighing up for a couple of years.

“Our priority are the residents. We’re not selling for the sake of selling,” Mr Falls said.

“It’s become a question of sustainability and unfortunately we just don’t have the resources now to support all of our aged care facilities.

Firie looks at building without a roof

The roof of the Wescott nursing home at Stockton flew off in gale-force winds in 2019.(

ABC Newcastle: Maddie Lewis

)

“It’s a terribly sad day for us because we do have a deep concern for the elderly, for the aged in our community but, unfortunately, the industry now requires a lot more scale to provide the resources to uphold, particularly, residential care.”

The entrance of a building, stairs in the foreground surrounded by shrubbery

Residents and staff have been given no date as to when they may have to leave the facilities.(

ABC Central Coast: Emma Simkin

)

Mr Falls said there was no timeline and it could take months but the church would now put the facilities on the market in the hope another provider would buy them.

“At East Gosford, we’re certainly going to try to see if we can sell it … but we don’t believe that will be possible. The finances simply don’t support it,” he said.

“We are expecting that we will need to find other aged care providers to help us in taking our residents.

“[Some residents] paid those bonds, payments, many years ago and, of course, their immediate concern as well is how can we find something equivalent in the local area.

“I grieve for them … it’s a terrible time for them.”

There are 157 residents, including 35 independent living residents, and 150 staff across the two sites.

Aged care residents, staff in limbo as church sells up
Source:
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