Casuarina Grove to be taken over by a private provider

Jobs will be lost at Casuarina Grove in Hamlyn Terrace when a private company takes over in October

Six enrolled nurses and 25 health service workers employed full time at Casuarina Grove in Hamlyn Terrace will lose their jobs when Ability Options takes over the specialised aged care facility in October.

Casuarina Grove will be transitioned to private provider, Ability Options, a not for profit organistion, on Thursday, October 29, as the NSW Government moves all government operated disability services to the private sector, which is part of its Disability Services Change Management Plan.

Staff at the centre received an email on Tuesday, August 25, informing them of the planned changes, including redundancies.

The email said that a number of staff currently employed at Casuarina Grove would not transfer and would be stood down as part of the state’s move away from disability service provision.

Assistant Secretary of the Public Service Association, Troy Wright, said that it is not intended to transfer casual staff, and that temporary staff with contracts up for renewal before the transfer date would be let go.

He said it was a shock that this could happen in the middle of a pandemic.

“This is a move that we fear will put particularly vulnerable elderly people at risk of neglect and COVID-19,” he said.

“These are important roles within the home that provide not only maintenance and housekeeping, but companionship and support for the residents.

“It is unbelievable that the Berejiklian government has pushed ahead with privatising the services that our state’s most vulnerable rely on.

“The first thing the new operator has come in and done is cut jobs.

“How is that going to deliver a better outcome for the residents?

“This comes in the middle of a pandemic, and after we’ve seen how poorly the likes of Newmarch House, Epping Gardens and St Basil’s have performed, it makes what’s happening at Casuarina Grove all the more alarming,” Wright said.

He said a report by the University of Queensland, commissioned by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, found that small aged care facilities run by state governments were the best quality for residents, beating not-for-profit and for-profit providers.

Casuarina Grove is a purpose-built facility for aged people with a disability which delivers high needs care.

It opened in 2010 to replace the facility at Peat Island which had become too dated to operate at the highest standards.

Casuarina Grove has 100 beds and is currently home to 57 people.

It was built at a cost of $35M and its design won awards at the time.

“We know that the best way to care for our elderly is through government-run aged care,” Wright said.

“However, NSW is the only state or territory that offers no government-run services or support to those living with severe disabilities.

“Under the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) system, no one is turned away, but private operators and non-governmental organisations have not made any guarantee.

“This means that there is no accommodation of last resort that guarantees that someone will have a home.

“The people of Casuarina Grove all share the same need for well regulated, well funded, well delivered services by people who care for them professionally and personally.

“They must be treated respectfully as people, not as customers,” Wright said.

Shadow Minister for Central Coast, David Harris, has written to the Minister and Premier calling on them to freeze any termination of employment during the COVID-19 crisis.

“This heartless government, in the middle of a pandemic and with rising unemployment, has notified more than 30 employees that their jobs will be cut,” Harris said.

“It also flies in the face of the Berejiklian Government commitment at the last election that no regional public service jobs will be cut.

“The NSW Government’s decision to freeze the wages of public servants will already cost the Central Coast economy $120M in pre-tax income, according to a study by the Australia Institute, and this latest decision is a kick in the guts, not just for those families affected, but the wider Central Coast economy,” Harris said.

Member for Dobell and Shadow Assistant Minister for Carers and Mental Health, Emma McBride, said that as COVID-19 continued to unfold, it was distressing to hear that local workers were being left out in the cold by this government.

“Many of the residents form lifelong bonds with their carers and this loss will be felt deeply, given the isolation and loneliness of COVID-19,” she said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Communities and Justice (DJI) said the NSW Government was working closely with the non-government sector to provide the best possible care to people with disability across the state.

“The transfer of specialist disability supports to the non-government sector signifies a generational change to disability support, and the transfer of Casuarina Grove is part of the ongoing implementation of the NDIS in NSW.

“Ability Options, a not-for-profit organisation, was carefully chosen to provide specialist supported living to residents of Casuarina Grove after a robust tender process.

“There have been no mass resignations at Casuarina Grove.

“Sixty-three staff, including registered nurses, assistants in nursing, a clinical nurse educator, community workers and support workers will transfer to Ability Options.

“An additional 23 specialist staff will be recruited.

“We are working closely with all staff affected through a comprehensive Change Management Plan, which includes access to support, funding for learning and development and other employment opportunities,” the DJI spokesperson said.

Ability Options declined to make any comment.

Sue Murray