Southern Cross Care Queensland's Illoura.
Southern Cross Care Queensland's Illoura. Matthew Newton

Southern Cross Care defends nursing home cuts, families hit back

SOUTHERN Cross Care Queensland CEO Peter Bell - the man in charge of Illoura and Leichhardt Villa nursing homes in Chinchilla and Taroom - has defended recent staffing cuts as making the rural facilities "financially sustainable, to ensure that we are able to provide aged care services... for a long time into the future”.

Meanwhile, families of elderly residents of the facilities have slammed the organisation's communication as "atrocious” and voiced concerns over the quality of care residents will receive into the future.

Families also say skilled staff at Illoura are leaving "left, right and centre” because the cuts - totalling 518 hours from the fortnightly roster - have left workers unable to earn enough to support themselves.

"Residents are so upset and the feeling inside Illoura is just terrible,” one resident's daughter said.

"No reduction in care? How can there not be?” she added.

SCCQ CEO Peter Bell said the cuts - which extend right across the organisation's network of 11 nursing homes - was about ensuring "we have an acceptable level of staffing within sustainable costs”.

"We have been providing aged services in Queensland for 40 years and we are determined to be providing those services for more than 40 more years,” he said.

"For Chinchilla, over half of the facility needs to be redeveloped and at this time, due to the financial performance, there is no surplus for this to occur.

"We service centres that will never be deemed profitable by the for-profit sector and we must do all in our power to ensure our vital service continues.”

A daughter of a current resident at Illoura said the cuts were "pretty bloomin' disheartening”.

"(Residents) pay a huge amount of money to be there. They say that (SCCQ) had a meeting with residents - most of these people don't have the capacity to take that in,” she said.

She also said it was astounding that in this day and age, with email and mobile phones, that families weren't notified of the meetings when what SCCQ terms the "roster realignment” - cuts in other words - were discussed.

"We've got no choice in this. People have signed up and paid bonds, and weekly fees, and yet (SCCQ) keeps taking away services,” she said.

"I have no ill feeling towards the carers themselves. They're always amazing, but there are so many high-care residents up there - so how can you cut back on that?”

The cuts to staffing levels were underpinned by an Aged Care Financial Performance Survey written by consultants Stewart Brown in 2016.

The report is a survey of approximately 700, predominately charitable aged care homes across Australia, and ranks them in accordance with the acuity of the residents present, as determined by the Aged Care Funding Instrument.

Mr Bell said SCCQ had set their staffing levels "based on the midpoint of all those homes for each category of staff, for the resident acuity level for 100% occupancy”.

"This means that following the realignment, we will have staffing levels consistent with the mid-point of the charitable sector of the industry, which is generally higher than in the corporate sector,” Mr Bell said.

He also said that in the 2017-18 financial year, the Federal Government decided not to increase funding amounts for aged care provision.

Maranoa MP David Littleproud said the funding increase freeze was the result of some aged care facilities "gaming the system” and that funding would continue to increase next financial year at 50% of what it normally would, and return to normal levels the year after that.

"Having said that, we have increased funding to Southern Cross Care in Queensland by 7% this year,” Mr Littleproud said.

Mr Littleproud said SCCQ's decision to cut hours was "purely commercial”.

In the 2014/15 financial year, SCCQ received $44,762,145 in Commonwealth subsidies, and $48,618,741 in 2015/16. Mr Bell said that would increase to $50,848,260 in 2016/17.

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