Nine days after moving from the aged care facility that had been 93-year-old Norma Butler’s home for four years, she was dead.

Key points:

  • Operators of the St Lawrence residential facility have closed it with a month’s notice
  • The 35 residents were forced to suddenly move to other homes
  • Locals, including the deputy Prime Minister, hope another provider will take over the site

She was forced out when Southern Cross Care unexpectedly announced it was closing St Lawrence Residential Aged Care in the small town of Harden-Murrumburrah on the New South Wales south-west slopes.

Blaming the decision on financial constraints and staffing challenges, Southern Cross Care said the home’s 35 residents had to relocate.

Norma’s daughter, Lyn Douglass, decided to move her frail, elderly mother, who has dementia, as quickly as possible to minimise the impact of the change.

But she said the sudden upheaval was too great an adjustment for Norma and the grandmother of four and great-grandmother of 11 “just gave up”.

An elderly woman with white hair suits in a cream recliner in a lounge room, unwrapping a present.

Norma Butler’s health was frail, says her daughter, but leaving St Lawrence accelerated her decline.(

Supplied: Lyn Douglass


Ms Douglass said she hoped hoping her mother’s lack of awareness would prevent her noticing the move, but it compounded it.

Within two hours of moving into the public home at the Harden hospital, Norma, the daughter of a Gallipoli veteran, began to refuse food, drink and medication.

She became “extremely agitated”, calling out “I don’t know where I am” and “Help me, help me”.

Ms Douglass blames the home for her mother’s death.

“She was on the downhill slide [but] I would have to say she had months left. Not nine days.”

In a statement, Southern Cross Care said it was “deeply saddened by the passing of Norma”.

“Our thoughts and sympathies are with her family and friends at this difficult time,” the statement read.

Five women standing together and smiling

Norma Butler [bottom right] with her family, including daughter Lyn Douglass [upper middle], lived at St Lawrence for four years.(

Supplied: Lyn Douglass


‘A month’s not very long’

Kerryanne Flanery’s sister, Robyn Phillips, 81, lived at St Lawrence for 10 years, and the now-closed Galong home for eight years before that.

Ms Flanery said before her sister’s dementia became advanced, she used to go to line dancing.

“I was very happy with St Lawrence, with Southern Cross Care in Harden. I thought it was very well done, the staff were good.”

A woman with curly grey hair holding a juvenile wombat.

Robyn Phillips has dementia and has lived in aged care for 18 years.(

Supplied: Kerry Flanery


However, she said Robyn was not coping well with her “out of the blue” removal from the home.

“She keeps saying, ‘I don’t know where my room’s gone’,” she said.

“I’m the only one around to help her. And if she’s not comfortable I’m going to feel terrible about it. It’s stressful.”

Two women wearing white with a small kangaroo between them.

Robyn Phillips has been moved out of the St Lawrence home. Her sister Kerry (right) said she was not coping with the move.(

Supplied: Kerryanne Flanery


Ms Flanery said she would like to see St Lawrence reopened in some capacity.

At a community meeting earlier this week, the Deputy Prime Minister and member for Riverina, Michael McCormack, said other providers had expressed an interest in acquiring the site.

He addressed concern that SCC would withdraw the bed licences for the area which would stop a new aged care provider filling the gap they left behind, leaving the community with no options for an alternative provider.

He rejected SCC’s claim there was not enough demand to justify keeping the doors of St Lawrence open.

“I can’t even fathom how that demand could have fallen,” he said.

A red brick path leads to a U shaped building

All residents have left the aged care home on the NSW south-west slopes.(

Supplied: Southern Cross Care


A spokesperson for Southern Cross Care said there had been “consistent vacancies” across all of its homes in the region for “an extended period of time”.

A decision about the future of the site has not yet been made.

Dead in nine days: Family blames aged care shock for great-grandmother’s sudden decline
Source 1


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