The Mullumbimby District Neighbourhood Centre and Apollo Care Alliance will apply to take over the day-to-day running of the Feros Village aged care facility in Byron Bay, should a proposed expression of interest process for the home take place.
As allegations of sub-standard care in relation to the eight remaining Feros residents emerged last week, the Neighbourhood Centre and Apollo Care publicly announced that they were ready to step in to save the home from closure.
‘Apollo Care has successfully saved many homes from closure, and we’re confident our partnership can retain the facility so it can continue as a key service for residents in our community,’ the Manager of the Neighbourhood Centre, Julie Williams said.
‘Crucially, Apollo Care preserves the ethos and values of each community it collaborates with.
‘That’s particularly important here as we’re a tight-knit community that doesn’t want its elderly residents displaced.’
Apollo and the Neighbourhood Centre have indicated that, should they take over the management of the facility, they would look to invest in and restore the operation.
‘We think it can offer a wonderful living environment for older community members who are no longer able to live independently,’ Apollo Care’s Executive Chair, John Young, said.
The news of a possible takeover came as the NSW Minister for Lands and Property offered the services of his department to conduct the EOI process, a move which was endorsed by Byron Council at last week’s meeting.
Steps are also being taken for Byron Council to take over from the state government as the Crown Lands Manager of the site, a role it has previously filled.
When taken together, these three developments provide the best chance yet that the aged care home will remain open and continue to serve the local community as it has done for decades.
Earlier this year, the Feros board announced the closure of the facility, and the forced eviction and relocation of elderly residents to other north coast Feros aged care homes. Yet some residents resisted.
A redevelopment of the site was announced, yet came without any details or proof it was required.
Only eight of 40 left
According to some of the residents, of which there are only eight remaining from about 40, Feros have not provided adequate service for several weeks.
Resident Kate Smorty, told The Echo, ‘They’re treating us like we’re a nuisance. Yes! The food is atrocious. We haven’t got a chef anymore, it’s pre-cooked and frozen, and then defrosted and it’s not good. It all happened gradually – they’ve been quite spiteful. They’ve taken the Netflix!’
Ms Smorty says the hardest things have been seeing fellow residents slowly move away after being convinced that there might not be a place for them elsewhere if they didn’t, and the change from permanent to casual caring staff.
Ms Smorty says the staff provided are lovely, but sometimes they get different people every day.
No admin staff
‘Caring is a very intimate business. They have to ask you very personal questions. And so when there are carers from an agency, there are different names – they are always asking, “What’s your name?”. They have to learn our names, every day – we have to learn their names’.
Ms Smorty says the most noticeable thing is the disappearance of admin staff.
‘There’s no one left in the office! I’ve been told they’ve emptied all the drawers and taken all the paperwork out – the drawers and the filing cabinets, they’ve taken all the paperwork’.
After Thursday’s Council meeting, Ms Smorty told The Echo, ‘It’s hopeful now’.
EOI flawed, says Feros Care
Last week, Feros Care told The Echo that the EOI process proposed by Byron Shire Council is ‘substantially flawed’.
Their representative said that neither Council, nor the state government, have considered the implications of the EOI for the mandatory obligations faced by aged care providers under the Aged Care Act 1997, and associated regulatory framework.
‘This includes the ageing-in-place provisions – which cannot be met at Feros Village Byron Bay owing to design limitations.
‘These legislated obligations will not change, regardless of who the provider is.
‘An EOI conducted in conflict with non-negotiable requirements of the Aged Care Act presents risks to its sponsors, participants and the clinical care of residents’.
The Feros Care spokesperson added that the move also jeopardises the ‘Feros Care planned multi-million-dollar investment in the design and delivery of new, much-needed and affordable seniors accommodation on the site for the Byron Bay community’.
‘That is why we believe the best approach is to allow Feros Care and Crown Lands to finalise negotiations that have been ongoing over lease arrangements, that will provide the Byron Bay community with a guaranteed solution for the affordable housing crisis for seniors’.
‘We are continuing those negotiations with Crown Lands in good faith and hope they can be brought to a positive conclusion soon.’
Meanwhile, resident Jo Wooldridge told The Echo it’s been very difficult to understand the manner in which Feros have handled the issue.
‘What has been wonderful has been the support that we have been given here.
‘From everywhere, from the community and from all levels of government.’
Ms Smorty added it’s been tough for the residents.