March 31, 2010

AUSTRALIA: Sale of Garrawarra may 'diminish care'

. ILLAWARRA, South Coast, NSW / Illawarra Mercury / Dementia / March 31, 2010 By Nicole Hasham Old foes united yesterday to denounce plans to sell off one of the state's only specialist dementia facilities. Shaking off traditional party divide, former Labor Heathcote MP Ian McManus joined Opposition Health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner to protest a State Government decision to sell the publicly owned Garrawarra Centre at Waterfall. Together with Liberal politicians John Ajaka and Malcolm Kerr, they called on Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt to overturn the plan amid fears it would lead to diminished care for its elderly and special-needs patients. The Garrawarra Centre houses dementia patients from the Illawarra and Sutherland Shire, many of whom exhibit aggressive and challenging behaviours. Liberals Malcolm Kerr and John Ajaka, Former Labor MP Ian McManus, Liberal Jillian Skinner and concerned family members oppose the sale of Waterfall's Garrawarra Centre. Picture: Chris Lane NSW Health is evaluating expressions of interest into Garrawarra and 10 other state-owned facilities and is expected to make a decision within weeks. Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt has insisted the quality of patient care would remain unaffected if the facility changed hands. But Mr McManus said he feared private operators would be unable or unwilling to cope with the centre's more difficult patients. "The sell off will mean a decline in the standard of care to residents, a decline that will not be tolerated by carers," Mr McManus said. He criticised the State Government for its lack of communication with Garrawarra's staff and carers. "No local members, and no minister has gone to the place to explain what their intent is. "No-one knows what's happening - it's shrouded in secrecy," he said. Carers and staff who had demanded a meeting with Ms Tebbutt to discuss their concerns were met with a stony silence, he said. A spokesman for Ms Tebbutt said she was open to requests for meetings, subject to her availability. She reiterated "the depth of experience of non-government providers makes them well placed to provide quality care to all residents". [rc] Copyright © 2010. Fairfax Media