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Byron Shire
March 7, 2021

Coolamon aged care

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The story The Fisher family’s wish for healthcare in Mullum mentions my late father Keith O’Meara.

Dad was one of the Saint Vincent de Paul Conference (SVDP) members who had a vision to build an aged care facility in Mullum – Coolamon Villa.

It was Council who suggested the land owned by the Hospital Trust where Coolamon now stands.

Dad was a member of the Board of Coolamon Villa from its inception till it was sold to Catholic Health Care (CHC), who then managed it from their state headquarters.

CHC, like SVDP, is a not for profit organisation. Coolamon was built with a combination of funds from a government grant, SVDP and the community.

How well I remember the years of fundraising through the Chincogan Fiesta. The Music Halls were legendary!

After several years of fundraising, Coolamon was built and the town had a first class aged care facility.

Ownership changed several years ago. My father was a resident there for a few months prior to his death and my mother is currently a resident of Coolamon Villa.

Coolamon would have been giving love and care to our vulnerable elders for at least 40 years. I object to the suggestion that Coolamon should purchase the land they occupy. The state government sold the hospital site to Council for $1, knowing full well that it was going to cost at least $2m to remediate. So why can’t Byron Shire Council replicate this generosity and gift the land to Catholic Health Care for $1?

Having sat on the board of another local aged care facility, I know that it’s very difficult to break even unless you have more than 50 beds. ‘Get big or get out’, the so called economies-of-scale, is the current government thinking. Coolamon has around 54 beds.

I would hate to see this wonderful facility lost to the community because it couldn’t afford to pay market price for the land it occupies and has occupied for such a long time!

The Fisher family were certainly very generous in gifting the site to the town for the purpose of health care. I’m sure Coolamon Villa would fall within their wish.

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