Lithgow Mayor Ray Thompson has used his Mayoral Minute at the February meeting of Council to discuss - among other things - the ongoing crisis at Lithgow Aged Care (LAC).
The facility is facing closure with residents and staff in limbo after the aged care provider was not reaccredited and had sanctions placed against it by the Aged Care Commissioner.
While Council has no relationship with LAC, Council is deeply concerned about the residents and the staff of the facility.
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Mayor Thompson said the closure of the facility would have a devastating and lasting impact on Lithgow.
"We care deeply about the residents and staff of the facility. The council received no forewarning of the decision or threat of it from either LAC or the Australian Government," Cr Thompson said.
"We were exceptionally disappointed by this because now we are scrambling to have the principal parties, LAC and the Government fully appreciate the consequences of the decision for the city's wellbeing.
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"I've written to Andrew Gee and offered to travel to Canberra with the General Manager to meet with ministers and bureaucrats in the hope of finding a solution. Of course over the past 18 months, Lithgow has experienced multiple natural disasters, including drought, flooding and most notably bushfire.
"COVID has greatly impacted the city as well, we are most grateful for the assistance provided by both levels of government and good headway has been made. But recovery will take a long time. In my view, the city cannot readily endure the trauma that this decision will unleash."
Mayor Thompson went on to say that residents, their families and staff are pillars in the Lithgow community and should be protected at all costs.
"It must recognised that the 73 current residents of LAC are at the apex of our community, they have families and relationships that run broadly and deeply across the community. Equally behind each of the many hard working employees, their families will be affected," Cr Thompson said.
There are no vacancies, in fact there are waiting lists for aged beds not only here and pretty well right across the country.
"It has become abundantly clear that LAC requires urgent substantial improvement, the board agrees, the staff on the ground are diligent but the publicly available performance reports point to a substantial reform being needed...
"If that requires something in the form of an aged care expert administrator then that must occur."
He said the objectives of Council are to ensure that the wellbeing of the residents is always safeguarded and going forward reaffirm the objectives in relation to LAC.
Cr Steve Ring made a point to add to the Mayoral Minute that LAC staff should not only have their jobs protected but that their entitlements be ensured as well.
"In the worst case scenario... if Lithgow Aged Care closes - there are over 120 staff. We need to ensure their entitlements are protected," Cr Ring said.
Councillor Wayne McAndrew concurred.
"I can't overstate the importance of keeping our facility, our residents and our employees, we've only got three aged care facilities. Portland and Three Tree can't take these people on if worse comes to worse in April.
"There are no vacancies, in fact there are waiting lists for aged beds not only here and pretty well right across the country.
"We must ensure that everything is done to make sure that this facility stays open, the employees and the resident sar e protected and yes there are issues with the commission and those issues have got to be fixed and I really think it's time for the government to get involved and fix these issues otherwise we could end up losing this facility."
Mayor Thompson closed with a sobering reminder that the community must not accept what is happening with LAC and to fight back where they can.
"LAC holds licenses to cater to more than 73 residents. If this aged care facility ceases operations then I foresee this important social infrastructure being undersupplied to the city for some considerable time," Cr Thompson said.
"Rural communities must not concede to the social fabric being ripped out of their towns. Lithgow cannot accept this."
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