Condobolin Retirement Village

Seeking new Village management

 

Many concerned citizens gathered in the Council Chambers to discuss the future of the Condobolin Retirement Village at a public meeting last Tuesday. MB

By Melissa Blewitt

Lachlan Shire Council (LSC) is seeking new management for the Condobolin Retirement Village.

Around 100 people crowded the Council Chambers to discuss the future of the facility at a public meeting last Tuesday.

Patrick Herd from  Community Business Australia, who has been employed by LSC as a consultant, chaired the meeting.

Lachlan Shire Mayor John Medcalf announced at the meeting, Council was looking to an approved provider within the aged care industry to take over operations as early as July.

The Whiddon Group confirmed at the meeting that it will continue to manage the Village until a new provider is chosen and the transition process concludes.

A major concern for some, was the fact the Retirement Village would no longer be accepting new residents until this process is finalised. “My concern is that the people who will need it most during this time, will have to go out of town, and won’t return,” a concerned resident stated. Whiddon and LSC both confirmed no new residents would be accepted until all processes were finalised.

“Council plans to secure an experienced provider in a long term appointment to ensure ongoing quality care for residents, continued support for existing staff and to guarantee a sustainable future for the village”, Councillor Medcalf  said.

Two important questions remained unanswered after the meeting, after they were raised by coimmunity members.

Firstly, what was the “honest” reason for the breakdown of the relationship between LSC and Whiddon; and What would happen if no aged care provider could be found.

Expressions of interest will be evaluated by Council at a special meeting scheduled for mid-June, and the successful applicant will  be invited to present their proposal at a public forum shortly after.

Whiddon wants out

• The Whiddon Group “Is no longer prepared to operate the Condobolin Service in partnership with LSC (Lachlan Shire Council).” MB 

The Whiddon Group released the following letter to residents, families, staff and the Condobolin community on Tuesday, 19 April, 2016. It pertains to the negotiations between the company and Lachlan Shire Council in relation to a two-year lease extension at the Condobolin Retirement Village.

 

To our residents and families, our employees and the Condobolin community.

As many of you are aware, Whiddon has been negotiating with the Lachlan Shire Council (LSC) to enable our organisation to continue with the management  of the Condobolin Aged Care Services and Independent Living Units.

Our initial negotiations began in December 2015 and up until March 2016 we were hopeful that both parties would enter an agreement to extend our management of the service for a further two years.

Whiddon committed more than 240k in 2015 to provide new equipment and update areas of the home, including the dementia care wing. Furthermore, we wrote to the LSC in November 2015 confirming that Whiddon would commit an additional 260k towards repainting the entire home, asbestos remediation and equipment upgrades.

Over and above these investments, and following Whiddon’s appointment in 2010 as managers of the service, we have subsidised operating losses in excess of $2M dollars as at December 2015. Our actions and investment not only underpins Whiddon’s strong commitment to the service, but also our willingness to remain embedded in the Condobolin community.

Whiddon plays an important role as a care provider in rural remote NSW and this is demonstrated every day at locations auch as Condobolin, Temora, Bourke, Walgett, Wee Waa and Narrabri. We understand the important role we play in caring for local people while also keeping our residents connected to their families and communities. We also understand the role services such as this play in contributing to the local economy and in providing employment opportunities  for local people. Whiddon contributes millions of dollars annually to rural and remote communities across NSW. This occurs through the creation of stable employment, ongoing skill development and our daily spend with local businesses, valued at $3M per annum.

Given the commitment that we have already demonstrated, we were very disappointed at the content of the article, which was published on the front page of The Lachlander, announcing that the LSC intended to place the service on the market and did not intend to extend the term of the management agreement beyond six months. The article was published with the knowledge that the service was due for re-accreditation in August 2016 and that Whiddon has already commenced a $500K upgrade for 2016, in addition to the substantial financial commitment made over the past 6 years.

Given the instability, unnecessary angst caused for the residents and employees, and delays we have experienced working with LSC, Whiddon is no longer prepared to operate the Condobolin Service in partnership with LSC.

We are a not-for-profit organisation and have more than proven that we are not driven by  commercial outcomes at Condobolin. Our actions to date clearly demonstrate that our interest lie in providing quality a aged care services to the Condobolin Community. Despite the challenges we have faced, we have a genuine desire to continue to operate this service long into the future, invest in the home and its employees, and provide provide care and support to our residents and their families.

Noting that Whiddon, not the LSC, have subsidised $2M in losses, over the last 5 years, it is our belief that the Condobolin Community will be best served with the property and service owned outright and being operated by Whiddon. The LSC Council do not currently share this view.

The Condobolin  Service does not generate sufficient funds to meet the ongoing needs of the building or replace equipment as it begins to age, and given Whiddon’s size and experience in locations such as this, it is our view that we are best placed to continue to subsidise operations into the future, and serve the community’s needs. We have a well earned reputation for quality care services in the many regional, rural and remote locations that we serve and our priorities will always lie with our residents, their families, our employees and the community.

The LSC have indicated that they are not prepared to accept the recommendation, made by Whiddon, and as such we have been left with no other choice but to allow our Management Agreement to lapse. In order to assist with any future transition of the service back to LSC whiddon will firstly provide three months notice effective today.

We, like yourselves,  must now be guided by the LSC and will wait to understand how they wish to proceed.  It is important to note that under the provisions within the Aged Care Act 1997 the situation we find ourselves in hinders  Whiddons ability to provide ongoing security of tenure for our residents. This means that we will cease to take new admissions until the LSC makes their intentions known. Rest assured that we will continue to care for all our existing  residents. Additionally, staff will continue to be employed by Whiddon to continue to meet the needs of our residents in Condobolin.

The decision to proceed this way has not been made lightly; it has weighed heavily on many of us and goes against Whiddon’s core principals. However, continuing with the current arrangement will compromise our services and ultimately impact on our esidents and employees in a manner that we are not prepared to support.

It is our belief that by moving this into the public arena you will be able to voice your opinion directly to the LSC or your local MP. We genuinely hope that with your support we can convince the LSC to allow Whiddon to move forward and continue operating this vital community service.

Notwithstanding, we would like to extend our thanks to Robert Hunt, LSC General Manager, and Cr Des Manwaring, who have shown great support and consideration for our residents and employees at the Condobolin Aged Care Service and Independent Living Units.

Whiddon is also keen to hear from you on this matter, so please feel free to contact us at media@whiddon.com.au.

 

Sincerely,

Chris Mamarelis.

Chief Executive Officer.

 

Lachlan Shire and Whiddon end partnership

Negotiations for two year Village lease extension reach breaking point

By Melissa Blewitt

The partnership between Lachlan Shire Council (LSC) and The Whiddon Group is coming to an end.

Negotiations between the two, for the extension of a two-year lease agreement at the Condobolin Retirement Village have broken down.

In a letter obtained by The Condobolin Argus, The Whiddon Group, states “Given the instability, unnecessary angst caused for residents and employees, and delays we have experienced working with the LSC, Whiddon is no longer prepared to operate the Condobolin Service in partnership with the LSC.”

In response, LSC General Manager, Robert Hunt, said he believed The Whiddon Group was using “very heavy-handed tactics” in a bid to force Council into effectively gifting the facility to it.

“Whiddon has indicated they want to terminate their partnership with LSC,” he said.

“They have cited an article published in The Lachlander, as one of the main reasons for ending the agreement.

“We have been negotiating with Whiddon for a lengthy amount of time and accept they no longer want to operate the Condobolin Retirement Village.

“LSC has done everything in its power to conduct transparent and honest negotiations, and it seems Whiddon is not prepared to do the same.”

The agreement with Whiddon will come to an end on 30 June.

A letter which has been distributed by The Whiddon Group to residents, staff and the community, “flies in the face” of the current agreement, according to Mr Hunt.

“It was prepared without any consultation with LSC, and will cause nothing but unnecessary anguish, fear and stress to residents, families, staff and the community,” he said.

“It also contains statements which are inaccurate and misrepresent Council’s communication with Whiddon.

“LSC had been, as recently as Tuesday, 18 April, in talks with Whiddon.

“The letter makes no mention of the significant financial contribution Council has made to capital improvements at the facility.”

Mr Hunt explained the land on which the Retirement Village sits, cannot be sold, until it is reclassified from community land to operational land and this would take several months.

“Council cannot sell or transfer the [Village] land to anyone at this time,” he said.

LSC will decide at today’s Council Meeting whether it will call for Expressions of Interest, to engage another operator for the facility.

“We want to ensure a smooth transition of arrangements for the continuing care and welfare of the residents in particular,” Mr Hunt said.

Condobolin Retirement Village lease in jeopardy

Commercial in-confidence material used as a political point scoring exercise.

 

By Melissa Blewitt

Negotiations between Whiddon Homes and Lachlan Shire Council for the extension of a two-year lease are in jeopardy, following an article published in a local newspaper.

It was resolved at an Extra Ordinary meeting on 23 March, during a confidential closed session, that Council grant a two-year extension of the current agreement with Whiddon Homes, and that the Mayor and General Manager be delegated authority to sign the extension agreement.

Councillors Ridley, Frankel, Medcalf, Manwaring and Nelson voted for the resolution and Councillors Phillips, Scott, Brady and Saunders against.

An article printed on the front page of The Lachlander, last Friday, contained commercial in confidence material that unfortunately has “been used as an apparent political point scoring exercise,” according to LSC Mayor John Medcalf.

“I am very concerned with the unnecessary angst that the article has placed on residents, their families and staff at the Condobolin Retirement Village and on our negotiations with Whiddon Homes for a two-year Management Agreement extension,” he said.

“I want to assure staff, residents and their families of Council’s commitment to continuing the provision of this service. Council has great confidence in Whiddon Homes and the good service they are providing the community.

“It is unfortunate that this story involving our aged, frail and most vulnerable members within our community, has been used as an apparent political point scoring exercise by Councillors Scott, Brady, Saunders and Phillips.

“This is not the way Council does business. We are still in negotiations with Whiddon and I hope that this hasn’t harmed the good relationship between Council and Whiddon Homes.”

On the same day, another article was published, in relation to Council providing space for Rural and Remote Medical Services (RaRMS) to open a medical practice.

At the Extraordinary Meeting on 23 March during a confidential closed session, it was resolved that Council agree to lease rooms within the Condobolin District Retirement Village to RaRMS for a two year period.

Any modifications to the rooms would be undertaken at the expense of RaRMS, and would be subject to Council approval. A market rental would also be charged as determined by an independent qualified valuer.

Again Councillors Ridley, Frankel, Medcalf, Manwaring and Nelson voted for the resolution and Councillors Phillips, Scott, Brady and Saunders against.

“I am also concerned with this article published regarding negotiations for a lease of three rooms in the Retirement Village for a new medical centre to be operated by RaRMS, when these negotiations were still not complete and were confidential,” Mr Medcalf said.

“This medical centre would be an additional service to Ochre Health which operates out of the Council owned Melrose Street Medical Centre.

“Council is very appreciative and pleased with the services provided by Ochre Health and had nothing to do with it losing a tender to RaRMS for the provision of Visiting Medical Officers to the hospital. NSW Health is responsible for awarding VMO rights not Council.”

“I fail to see why anyone would not want additional General Practitioners in Condobolin and especially at the Retirement Village where residents have the greatest need for quick access to medical professionals.”

“Council have acted fairly to both medical organisations and only want the best and optimum medical services for the community.

“I sincerely hope that the article has not harmed our negotiations with RaRMS.”

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