Hundreds protest aged care decision

By Tyla Harrington

MORE than 800 people have signed a petition protesting Campaspe Shire’s in-principle decision to withdraw from aged care and disability services.

Echuca’s Marlene Orange, who started the petition, spends most of her time caring for her aunt Rita McAuliffe who lives in Echuca and requires around the clock care.

But Ms Orange fears if council removes itself, her 87-year-old aunt will be significantly worse off and could be forced into a nursing home.

She is worried by backing away, 1.7 per cent of the shire’s population — the elderly — will lose the local connection council provides.

‘‘When I heard (the news) my heart went out to the 700 clients,’’ she said.

‘‘Council should provide these community based services and they should remain within local government.

‘‘Local government is supposed to look after the needs of its community, that is why it is there.’’

Campaspe Shire’s regulatory and community services general manager Paul McKenzie said the elderly would not be forced into nursing homes and maintains council is committed to helping its 76 staff ‘‘prepare for applying for employment’’ who it believes are ‘‘well placed to take advantage of the skills shortage in the aged care industry’’.

Mr McKenzie is also adamant the connection will not be lost because he said council’s decision was underpinned by four guiding principles.

‘‘Two in particular, ensuring equity of access to services based on need and regardless of geographic location and commitment to reinvesting back into the community will ensure a local connection,’’ he said.

‘‘Any new provider(s) will be entering an arrangement with the Federal and State Governments to deliver all services currently delivered by council. Part of council’s ongoing role is to ensure that the community has equitable access to services, and that clients living in the more rural parts of our shire will not be disadvantaged.’’

Council says reforms in the aged and disability service has forced its hands including the commitment by the government to introduce a standard national approach to the delivery of aged care and disability services and a shift to a model where the consumer controls their own care, including who will deliver it, when and where.

‘‘These reforms highlight that council’s current aged and disability service will be unable to adapt to meet these requirements without significant change and cost,’’ Mr McKenzie said.

But he said council would consider all submissions before making a final decision.

‘‘By making an in-principle decision it allows council to step through the process — advising the public the first step has been made, moving to an expression of interest process openly,’’ Mr McKenzie said.

‘‘Council will consider the results of the EOI process, and if a suitable provider is found, then make a recommendation to the Commonwealth.’’

The petition was started on May 30 and is available to sign in Echuca (Salvation Army Thrift Shop and the Epicentre Op Shop, both on Ogilvie Avenue), Tongala and Kyabram.

Greendale’s Cathie Hollis, who has been helping Ms Orange, said she believed aged care was the responsibility of local government.

‘‘I’ve always thought the reason why we have local government is they provide the services to meet the needs of the community,’’ she said.

‘‘We pay our rates for those services. They’re run and co-ordinated by local government and I always thought they were the first port of call.’’

Mr McKenzie said it had been a difficult decision.

‘‘In making this decision, council is not focusing on the present, but also looking forward to a more sustainable aged and disability service to support and meet the needs of the community,’’ he said.