UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Tarcoola Aged Care facility in Tara may be sold or handed off by council.
UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Tarcoola Aged Care facility in Tara may be sold or handed off by council. Sam Flanagan

Council to sell or hand over aged care

TARA residents are up in arms over a council decision to either sell or hand off aged care facilities around the region, after what they say was poor community engagement.

Tara Newsagency owner Gayle Porter has lived in the town her whole life and said she only found out about the decision when it was mentioned in an interview on the radio.

"There has been no real definition of what council is actually doing,” she said.

The reason it matters so much to communities, she explained, is that the facilities under consideration include the Tarcoola Retirement Home and Tara Community Care, which were both originally set up by community organisations before being handed over "in trust” to the council. When councils amalgamated in 2008 the facilities were transferred from Tara Shire Council to the Western Downs Regional Council (WDRC).

"It was never sold to council, it was always to be held in trust for the community,” Mrs Porter explained.

Mrs Porter said she's concerned that if the services are sold, the profits won't go back into the Tara community.

"That money, because it was raised by our community, if they sell off assets... it should be brought back into the community,” Mrs Porter said.

For Mrs Porter and the more than 100 other locals who have signed a petition calling for more community consultation, the uncertainty has left them feeling "abandoned”.

But a council spokeswoman explained there has been "direct consultation with all key stakeholders”.

"Friends of Committees/Consultative Committees will still play a significant role in these facilities and Council is absolutely committed to ensuring that the current allocation of bed licences, remain in their existing locations.

"All health assets will be included in the transaction, currently Council has requested formal proposals and submissions..”

The WDRC is one only a few local governments in Australia to own and operate residential aged care facilities.

Councillor Andrew Smith said it was preferable specialised care was "delivered by industry specialists.”

"This would allow for growth in the aged care sector in the Western Downs,” he said.

"Hopefully, this will also mean the potential to deliver better regional health services for the Western Downs and most importantly of all, our aged residents can keep living in the community.”

The council spokeswoman said due to the current submission phase no comment can be made on whether the facilities will be sold or handed off, or if any profits made from a sale would be put back into the Tara community.

"Western Downs Council has sought options for consideration for existing health services and to explore the possibility of new allied health services in our region,” she said.

"While this process takes place it's business as usual in our aged care facilities.”

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