Port Stephens Veterans and Citizens Aged Care

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SpeakersBaumann Mr Craig
BusinessPrivate Members Statements, PRIV

Page: 27793

Mr CRAIG BAUMANN (Port Stephens) [11.32 a.m.]: I speak about the fabulous work being undertaken by a local retirement village enterprise, Port Stephens Veterans and Citizens Aged Care. This is an organisation that is performing a great service for the elderly in our community—and it is certainly filling a gap in health and support services that the current State Government seems unable, or unwilling, to fix. Port Stephens Veterans and Citizens Aged Care is a not-for-profit community-based company located on the Tomaree peninsula in Port Stephens. It all began in 1983 when retired fisherman Bernie Thompson recognised there was a need for aged services for local pensioners. The company began with land at Shoal Bay being given to it for lease. Today the company has three retirement villages, three aged care facilities, a user-pays community system, and a user-pays day centre. It services more than 700 people on a daily basis, by providing meals, domestic services and nursing services to the residents.

It must be noted that this system is based on a user-pays system as the Port Stephens area has not been allocated funding from either the State or Federal governments for a number of years. The company does, however, provide approved nursing services to Department of Veterans Affairs clients in the area. With regard to residential care, it provides much-needed specialist dementia services in its 52-bed high- and low-care facility at Fingal Bay. The other aged care facilities are located at Shoal Bay and comprise ageing in-place facilities, high-care facilities and much-needed respite care. The company employs 230 staff from the local area, and provides traineeships for staff members with no formal qualifications. In 2010 approximately 22 staff have either completed or almost completed traineeships in aged care, accounting, human resource management, and leisure and lifestyle. The company also has two school-based traineeships available to students from the local high school.

Often in this House I have outlined the lack of health care services in Port Stephens, particularly on the Tomaree peninsula. Tomaree Community Hospital has limited services. Tomaree is a favourite location for retirees, but has a limited number of services for older people. Many have to travel into the larger hospitals like John Hunter and the Calvary Mater for cancer treatments or specialised care—that is a 140-kilometre round trip over a New South Wales Government neglected road. A local community transport bus travels to Newcastle three days a week, or residents must take public transport to get to the hospitals using a total of three buses.

But recently Port Stephens Veterans and Citizens Aged Care became aware that many of its residents in the villages and members of the local community were struggling with this daily grind of trying to get to Newcastle hospitals. And they decided to do something about it. Port Stephens Veterans and Citizens Aged Care decided to spend $100,000 purchasing and refurbishing a house in Mayfield, which is just minutes from the aforementioned hospitals. Upstairs there are three bedrooms, large communal dining areas, lounge rooms, a fully equipped kitchen, two toilets and a large bathroom. There are also frozen meals available if required. Downstairs there is another large unit with a kitchenette, one bedroom, large bathroom and a lounge room. There is a chair lift available between the floors if needed.

Accommodation at Mayfield House, as it is known, costs $30 per room per night and is booked through the company's community services. The company has liaised with Newcastle Community Transport, which will pick up people from Mayfield House and take them to either hospital. The company itself will arrange transport to and from the house at a small cost for people who are unable to get on the community bus. Mayfield House is also available for family and carers to accompany their relative, and it is also available for family or carers to visit a loved one in either hospital.

It must be noted that Port Stephens Veterans and Citizens Aged Care wrote to the Minister for Health appealing for financial support to bring this fabulous project to fruition. However, typical of this out-of-touch, inept Labor Government, the Minister simply passed the buck to the local area health service chief executive officer, who rejected the request claiming that such accommodation was already available. We are yet to determine exactly where, if anywhere, that accommodation is located.

To say Mayfield House will be a great place of comfort for elderly clients of Port Stephens Veterans and Citizens Aged Care would be an understatement. It is a tremendously innovative concept that will mean so much for Port Stephens residents, who continually suffer under the State Labor Government's neglect of services in the area, where almost one in five people are aged over 65 years. I greatly look forward to officially opening Mayfield House later this month.

But Port Stephens Veterans and Citizens Aged Care is not stopping there. It is now looking at branching into hospice services. This will save residents the daily travel to Newcastle. The company has the area and staff; however, it will need assistance with funding. Once again this Government is being entirely unhelpful, stating that palliative care services are already available. This is a stretch of the truth. I hope this State Labor Government will take note of this statement, take note of the great community service Port Stephens Veterans and Citizens Aged Care provides, and commit to helping Port Stephens Veterans and Citizens Aged Care grow, for the sake of the wider Port Stephens community.