The Whiddon Group — formerly the Frank Whiddon Masonic Homes of NSW — has applied for extra funding after a major expansion of its Temora aged care home was put on hold due to COVID-19- induced financial constraints.
In 2018, the federal government contributed almost $4 million to Greenstone Lodge as part of a huge overhaul of the facility by the Whiddon Group.
However, the operator’s CEO, Chris Mamarelis, said the 50-bed expansion had to be postponed after COVID-19 hit.
“We had to refocus, reprioritise, redirect resources, lock down movement of people, movement of construction teams, all of those things really held us back,” he said.
Mr Mamarelis said that, after new rounds of grants were announced, the group decided to apply for additional funding under the federal government’s Building Better Regions fund.
The Whiddon Group is now seeking an additional $5 million — which would make it $9 million in total of government funding — that it will match if the application is approved.
Mr Mamarelis said that amount would make the expansion an $18 million project.
“We’d be able to put that back into the construction program and [it] really just allows us to kick on with the project, which is under a lot of financial pressure at the moment,” he said.
Confident project will go ahead
Mr Mamarelis said Whiddon had worked “extremely hard” to make sure the project goes ahead and would do everything it could to “keep the project alive”.
“We have been absolutely committed to this project,” he said.
He said the Whiddon Group has been working with Temora Shire Council on the project from the outset.
Mayor Rick Firman said the extra funding was crucial, considering the challenges the operator had to face financially.
“The project can’t proceed because COVID-19 has hurt the bottom line of Frank Whiddon Masonic Homes,” Cr Firman said.
“[COVID-19] has thrown curve balls, but we’ve just got to keep chipping away and working hard to make sure we can bring about this important piece of infrastructure.”
Mr Mamarelis said the result of the new grant application was subject to government guidelines but that he expected a decision to be made in coming months.
He said he hoped work could commence as soon as possible because the current facility is at full capacity and there were already 20 people on the waiting list who have varying circumstances and care requirements.
Mr Mamarelis said that, if the grant was not approved, Whiddon would try other avenues.
“It’s a very important regional project and Whiddon is committed to aged care in regional communities. We have been for [more than] 70 years.”
Cr Firman has assured the group that council would do everything it could to get the job done as per the previous plan.
“If Frank Whiddon Masonic Homes are not successful, council will sit down with them and our federal member, Michael McCormack, and see what other options we have,” Cr Firman said.
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