Could the Feros Village aged care facility in Byron Bay be saved from closure by another aged care provider stepping in to take over running the facility?
Moves are afoot this week to try and make this possibility a reality, offering a lifeline to the residents that remain at the home, and a glimmer of hope for their families and the wider community.
The Echo understands that representatives of the nine residents who still reside at the Marvell Street home have been in quiet discussions with another provider about taking over the lease for the site.
The lease is currently held by Feros Care, which has announced that it is closing the facility in order to undertake a major redevelopment of the home, turning it into ‘affordable accommodation for the aged’.
Feros says that the facility was designed and built as a low-care hostel 33 years ago and cannot meet modern obligations and requirements of residential aged care.
But the company’s justification for closure has been strenuously disputed by the remaining residents, and the wider community including Byron Council, who say it is little more than a flimsy excuse for closing the facility and undertaking a lucrative redevelopment.
It has now emerged that the NSW minister for lands and property, who has ultimate responsibility for the land on which the facility stands, has offered the services of his department to conduct an expression of interest (EOI) process to test potential interest from other aged care providers to take over the running of the home.
‘If Council is interested in such a process, please advise the department,’ said Minister Steve Kamper in a letter to Council on August 7.
In a motion coming before this week’s Council meeting, Mayor Michael Lyon has moved that Council agree to support the EOI.
‘Residents’ representatives have indicated that there are other service providers interested in operating Feros Village though no formal offers have been made as of yet,’ Cr Lyon said.
‘An EOI process would put beyond doubt the question of whether there are other aged care service providers interested in the site or not’.
Loss of confidence
‘Also, it is clear from feedback to councillors, that the community has lost confidence in Feros Care after the way they treated the residents and tried to make decisions about future redevelopment of the reserve without consulting residents, community, Council or Crown Lands.
‘That loss of confidence should be a trigger for testing the market’.
Running in parallel with discussions around an EOI process, is a conversation about the possibility of Council taking over from the Department of Lands as the Crown Lands Manager for the Marvell Street property.
Back in June councillors voted to explore this option, which would see it effectively become the site’s landlord, giving it the power to bring in an alternative operator for the site.
In his letter to Council, Mr Kamper said his department was ‘open to working with Council to expedite its transition as CLM’ (Crown Lands Manager).
Mr Kamper also indicated in the letter that his department was willing to work with Council in relation to its offer to take over as the Crown Lands Manager of the site.
Any decision by Council to take over as the landlord for the site is unlikely to be undertaken lightly, as it would involve extra burdens on Council’s already-undernourished coffers, and its overstretched staff.
Back in June, Council indicated ‘in-principle support’ only for the takeover, with multiple councillors indicating that they only supported this option as a last resort.
The matter will come before Council on Thursday.