An 11-bed regional aged care facility is about to celebrate its 10th anniversary as a community-owned organisation, which has kept jobs and residents in town while proving the viability of an innovative new model for aged care.
The Grace Munro Centre was slated for closure in 2009 after a private care provider deemed it financially unviable
The community fundraised and negotiated to purchase the facility to run it independently
Since becoming a fully accredited independent care home, it has turned a profit each year
It was a daunting prospect for Bundarra local Enid Mallon to face leaving her hometown in the NSW Northern Tablelands to enter aged care.
“It wouldn’t have been real good, I would’ve really missed it,” she said.
After a brief stint in the north-west New South Wales town of Ashford, the 82-year-old great grandmother returned to Bundarra last year when a bed became available at the town’s only aged care facility, the Grace Munro Centre.
Since reuniting with her family, Ms Mallon said she had found a new community within the home.
“It’s like one big family here because we know each other and we all talk, and the staff are all friendly and nice. It really is lovely,” she said.
“I know it’s not that far away if anything happened and I rang.
“Because we’re little, they get to know us, and they can talk to us if they have concerns, and that’s really positive.”
Ms Abbington said she hoped the centre’s next decade would simply bring “more of the same”, and continue to strengthen the local-for-local care model.
“There’s always going to be a need for people to have somewhere to go,” she said.
“I would like to think that we remain viable, [and] both have staff from the local area and fill out beds from the local area.”
Can a community-care model be replicated on a national scale?
Pat Sparrow, CEO of Ageing and Community Services Australia (ACSA), Australia’s leading advocacy group for not-for-profit aged care facilities, said the success of the Grace Munro Centre was “remarkable and wonderful”.
But Ms Sparrow said every community required a bespoke approach for its aged care solutions.
“In that instance, in that community, that’s what really worked,” she said.
“In other communities, different organisations have different models that engage with the community.
“They’ve grabbed hold of the service, kept it local, looked after local people and it shows a real community spirit and community determination to make it a success.”
Providing evidence for the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, Ms Sparrow said allowing locals to remain in their community was a major benefit to residents’ mental and physical health.
“What is important is keeping people at home and in the community that they love.
“That’s really important as people get older,” she said.
“What’s important now is that we have a national conversation about what the community wants and expects, and how … as providers and as a community we can make sure we can deliver that into the future.”