RSL Lifecare 'trying to save face' as Roy Wotton Gardens closure appears imminent

Largely funded by the local community almost 30 years ago, Roy Wotton Gardens, formerly Nullica Lodge, has been a highly sought after facility in the region, but now appears to be facing closure.
Largely funded by the local community almost 30 years ago, Roy Wotton Gardens, formerly Nullica Lodge, has been a highly sought after facility in the region, but now appears to be facing closure.

Executives from RSL Lifecare met with residents, family members and staff members at Roy Wotton Gardens aged care facility in Eden yesterday to discuss its future.

A media statement received from RSL Lifecare on Tuesday, November 24 said the meeting was a "consultation forum" in which it was discussed "how best to meet the high-level of care that residents require".

However, a number of families who were in attendance have expressed feelings that the potential options presented to the residents were not actually options for them or their wellbeing, but rather for the viability of the business.

Beth Smith, whose father is a resident at the home, said there had been minimal forthcoming information since then.

"The stress, uncertainty and anxiety has been enormous for everyone, staff included, and there has been no real information let alone solutions offered to anybody as yet," Ms Smith said.

The three options presented at the meeting by RSL Lifecare included:

  1. Potentially selling the home to another provider, should one like to purchase the home;
  2. Transitioning the home to an 'assisted living' model, however this may mean those with high care needs may need to move;
  3. To close the home.

RSL Lifecare stated that the facility opened as a home for those with lower-care requirements but that "as a result of changing community needs, it houses 18 residents today with mostly high-care needs".

A statement from RSL Lifecare this week said, "the safety, health and wellbeing of our residents, staff, family members and community is always our top priority".

A statement from RSL Lifecare this week said, "the safety, health and wellbeing of our residents, staff, family members and community is always our top priority".

Karen Butchers, whose mother is a resident, said she felt RSL Lifecare was held to account during the meeting, but that families and staff would have been better off if they had simply been informed of a closure directly in July.

"The downward spiralling morale and mental anguish for everyone has been palpable," Ms Butchers said.

"I appreciate COVID has not helped, but that did not stop what could have been an open and honest discussion. 'Treated like idiots' has been a common term used."

RSL Lifecare stated that "any option needs to balance the residents' care needs and quality of life, with secure employment and reasonable work conditions for staff and the ongoing value of the home to the local community of Eden".

According to Ms Smith, one resident who has no family to assist her in making decisions, asked RSL Lifecare director of operations Matthew Filocamo if he had a gun, and stated she "would rather shoot herself than have to go through all of this".

"Many of the residents, due to their age, do not process this sort of information easily and it is heartbreaking to witness their distress," Ms Smith said.

RSL Lifecare also operates the Hugh Cunningham Gardens facility in Tura Beach and families of the residents are advocating for space to be made to accommodate their loved ones there. It is understood that had been no rooms available at an earlier date due to COVID and this was still not among the options presented at Tuesday afternoon's forum.

"Where do they expect them to go? RSL must find a space for them, and those with no families to help could very well find themselves shipped off intrastate," Ms Smith said.

RSL Lifecare executives eventually agreed that families and residents would be notified concretely in about two weeks with a decision about the future of the facility.

"By making all the residents and families make the hard decisions by offering no real solutions, it certainly looks like RSL is trying to save face," Ms Smith said.

"They can't admit that their decision to close is financially based, nor that they don't want to have to honour their current contracts by moving them as a group to a higher cost facility at their current rate."

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