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June 16 2023 Update – Response to A Current Affair Program

Media Statement: Closure Feros Care Village, Byron Bay – 16th June 2023

Overall

We are deeply committed to the wellbeing and safety of the 10 remaining residents at Feros Care Village Byron Bay. Unfortunately, there has been a highly organised and emotionally charged campaign to counter the closure, fuelled by deliberate misinformation and misrepresentation of our communications and intentions.

To ensure the best interests of the remaining residents’ and our staffs’ health, it is crucial that this campaign against the decision to close comes to an end.

Despite the repeated claims, no resident will be left homeless or forcibly removed from the village at any stage.

We fully acknowledge the emotional impact that this decision has had on residents, families, employees, and the entire community. We acknowledge that that this is a stressful time, and we want to assure everyone that residents continue to have sufficient time to find their new home.

Fundamentally the decision to close is a priority to the safety and wellbeing of residents and is the Feros Boards fiduciary duty to act on the high risks associated with the shortcomings of the current facility relative to the regulatory and legislative environment.

Therefore, it is the responsible decision to close it.

The difficult decision to close the Feros Byron Bay Village in its current form has been made as a result of the increasingly complex regulatory and legislative environment for operators of Commonwealth funded Residential Aged Care Facilities. The decision to close was not motivated by financial imperatives.

The Aged Care Act obligates Feros Care to guarantee that a resident will not be required to move to another facility if over time they need a higher level of care – and we cannot provide the appropriate spectrum of care at Feros Byron Bay Village. These complexities make it irresponsible to continue operating the facility without compromising the safety and quality of care.

Feros Care would like to directly address the false claim that residents have been subjected to bullying or pressure. Feros Care has zero tolerance to elder abuse. Any accusation of elder abuse should be reported immediately to the authorities. We would take any such claim extremely seriously. The Aged Care Quality Safety Commission (ACQSC) as recently as the 18 April, and the 23rd of May 2023 conducted two extensive assessments, visiting the site and interviewing families, residents, staff, the onsite medical officer, and volunteers. The ACQSC also visited and spoke to residents this week on Tuesday 13 June.

The ASQSC report findings were clear: residents reported positive feedback about the care and services they receive from Feros Care, as well as the conduct and competence of our staff. The Assessment Team did not identify any concerns regarding the delivery of care or staffing at the service. Consumers reported feeling safe, receiving individualised and effective care, and highlighted the availability of staff whenever needed.

Response to questions asked below;

There has been a claim made about elder abuse at Feros Care Village, Byron Bay, what is your response?

Any accusation of elder abuse should be reported immediately to the authorities. The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has been onsite numerous times and reported that residents are happy with their care and conduct of staff. Feros Care has zero tolerance to elder abuse. We would take any such claim extremely seriously. Our primary concern has and always will be, for the well-being of our residents.

Does Feros Care consider 120 days as a reasonable amount of notice given to vulnerable elderly residents to find alternative care in this current housing crisis environment?

It is untrue that there is no suitable accommodation for the remaining residents to move to.

To date, we have supported, and transitioned 26 of the 36 residents of Feros Byron to new homes of their choosing across the region.

Right now, all the remaining 10 residents have 2 suitable accommodation options available to choose from and move into immediately.

Currently, the 10 remaining residents at Feros Byron have chosen not to engage with us regarding the closure. On 10 May 2023, Feros Care received advice from the solicitor representing these remaining residents, instructing us to cease direct communication to residents regarding the closure.

Feros Care can accommodate all 10 remaining residents in our homes at Bangalow and Wommin Bay or in the region with other providers if they prefer, with more than 10 places immediately available and held for them if they choose to engage.

Feros Care has always and remains open to meeting with residents and their families to discuss their plans for relocation because the Village is closing.

How is Feros Care assisting the residents to find alternative accommodation?

We are doing a lot here.

  • 26 residents have been supported and already relocated to their new homes in the region.
  • Feros Care has a dedicated transition manager onsite, from Sunday to Thursday each week (to allow residents and families to meet with her on the weekend if required). An experienced Registered Nurse is otherwise available to discuss transition plans on Fridays and Saturdays;
  • Feros Care continues to offer and provide transport, buses, and tours to potential new homes at no cost to residents.
  • Feros Care has organised for the Aged Care Assessment Team (a government team, independent of Feros) to be onsite at Byron Bay to assess residents’ long-term care needs and help them plan their transition;
  • Feros Care has provided an external aged care placement provider, Health & Aged Assist at no cost for all residents if they prefer an independent person to help them find alternative accommodation.
  • Feros Care has offered all family members and residents counselling at no cost to them through the independent Access EAP service – and arranged for counsellors to be onsite every week since the announcement of the closure.
  • Feros Care continues to provide the 10 remaining residents with wellbeing support services including an onsite GP, an onsite counsellor, phone-based counsellor services and access to independent placement and advocacy services. Our priority is supporting the wellbeing of remaining residents as they transition to their new home.

Is there a possibility that Feros Care could extend the Management of the facility for the term of the licence (May 2024) so an alternative provider could be tendered to manage the facility within this timeframe?

Unfortunately, no, as it would be irresponsible to place residents at continued risk.

It was reported that Feros Care was unable to meet the complex regulations required – could you advise what these complexities are?

All Government funded Residential Aged Care facilities, including Feros Byron Village, must comply with four significant legislative requirements (amongst others), with the Act (and subordinate legislation) being the main law that covers government-funded aged care in Australia.

The Act sets out rules for things like funding, regulation, approval of providers, quality of care and the rights of people receiving care.

  • The Aged Care Act (the Act)
  • The User Rights Principles
  • The Quality-of-Care Principles, and
  • The Aged Care Quality Standards.

Our obligations under the Aged Care Act (1997) (AC Act), the Quality Standards and the changes to the policy settings around ‘Ageing in Place’. Feros Byron Village is no longer compliant with the requirements in the Aged Care Act.

The decision to close was not motivated by financial imperatives.

The Feros Byron village was specifically designed 33 years ago to meet the requirement of a low care hostel – but the distinction between high and low care no longer exists.

The requirement for ‘Ageing in Place’ is also outlined in the Byron Shire Council’s Residential Strategy, December 2020.

And the Feros Byron village is ‘grandfathered’ as a Class 3 building under the Building Code of Australia, all residential aged care homes are now required to be Class 9c. Any changes to the current building will trigger the requirement to rightfully meet Class 9c building requirements with due consideration to the relevant fire protection zone on site.

The required mandated provisions derived from the Aged Care Act, namely that the distinction between high and low care has been removed – which means providers of residential aged care must be able to demonstrate they can support all residents to age in place across the full spectrum of care needs at any time.

For instance, significant redevelopment of the Feros Byron village buildings to bring the current facility up to standard, including:

  • Additional design elements to allow for limited accessibility for individuals and peoples with disability, mobility challenges, and included increased security features, to accommodate quality clinical care and safety of residents with dementia.
  • Inadequate provisions for high care requirements in rooms, and outdated healthcare management technology
  • Clinical and medication rooms, and appropriate storage for hoists and other equipment
  • Fire prevention, and protection design elements and sprinklers to address the fire protection zone provisions.
  • Introduction of automatic doors throughout the facility for non-ambulatory residents
  • A commercial laundry and dirty utility/pan room that meets infection control and outbreak prevention standards.
  • New commercial kitchen facilities
  • GP consulting rooms, allied health treatment spaces, accommodation for hairdressers, etc
  • Rewiring and new switchboard for generator power, new cabling for effective use of technology and a new nurse call and alarm system
  • A dedicated clinical team to ensure that Feros Care is able to meet the ‘care minute’ requirements for its residents, including a registered nurse being present onsite 24 x 7 (noting current workforce shortages are predicted to become more acute in the near future, and challenges for our staff to find affordable housing locally).
  • Renovations to increase the capacity at the Village to enable the clinical care roster to meet the above care minutes and registered nurse requirements to be viable.
  • Availability of local General Practitioners willing to serve residents 24 x 7 onsite.

Does Feros Care have future plans for this facility?

We do. Feros Care understands our duties and obligations as Crown Land Managers and the reserve purpose on the land. It is Feros Care’s intention that this site will continue to be used for the benefit of seniors in the Byron Bay Community.  Accordingly, the new facility proposed by Feros Care will be consistent with the Public Purpose for which it has care, control, and management of the Crown Reserve, namely ‘Homes for the Aged’.

Feros Care remains committed to engaging and consulting with the Crown Land, Byron Shire Council, community and other stakeholders on the co-design and delivery of a new, fit-for-purpose, seniors’ accommodation on the site.

 

Media Contact: Luke Roberts, Cape Public Relations Pty Ltd – 0422855930[email protected]

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