Nursing home stalled again
MEMBERS of the local committee which has spent the last 14 years lobbying for a nursing home to be built in Mossman have expressed outrage that Cairns Regional Council is likely to postpone making a final decision on what to do with the land set aside for the facility.
At a general meeting today, the councillors will consider a report recommending seeking expressions of interest to run the facility.
However Marj Norris, the chair of the non-profit Mossman District Nursing Home Incorporated, said she was “appalled”.
“Council has basically said, ’Everything you’ve done so far hasn’t been good enough, you need to jump through these hoops again’,” Ms Norris said.
“They’ve had our proposal and business plan since last November.
“Council is clearly looking for a financial return on this block of land. They seem to be saying, ’There must be someone out there who would be willing to pay for the land’, but I don’t think that’s the case.
Division 10 councillor Julia Leu said she would prefer to see the land given to MDNHI, as the committee requested in November 2010.
“I would like to see council had agreed to the request by the committee,” Cr Leu said.
“I think it’s the best way to get a nursing home built within a rea- sonable period of time. A contract could be constructed that would ensure that the land is used for our much-needed aged care facility.
“Further delays could jeopardise the committee’s efforts to secure the necessary bed licences in the next Aged Care Approvals Round.”
Ms Norris said the council decision to throw open the gates to other bidders would simply postpone the centre.
“With an asset like that in the bank, we could apply for 60 beds in the next round of federal grants and go to the banks,” she said. “As it is, our hands are tied.” However, council said the process was intended to ensure council explored every avenue before gift- ing the land to the committee.
“We’re not closing the door on the committee,” council’s general manager for community, sport and cultural services Ian Lowth said.
“However, we need to go back to the committee for further information, and it’s an opportunity to test the market. There are different ways to skin a cat, and the EoI process is seen as the best way to flush out other interested parties.”
Mr Lowth said council is exploring the option of selling or leasing the land rather than gifting it to the committee in an effort to ensure “we’ve got everyone on a level playing field”.
However, Ms Norris is convinced a non-profit group is the only finan- cially viable option. There’s simply no money in high-care nursing facilities,” Ms Norris said.
“We can do it because non-profits can gain GST exemptions, we have access to interest-free loans. For a commercial operator without those concessions, the returns on intensive care facilities simply aren’t there.”
Council last year cancelled an agreement with Kubirri Holdings, which had agreed to build a mixed high and low-care facility but had been unable to secure financing to begin construction. Mossman pharmacist John Anich sold the block to the Douglas Shire Council in 2007 specifically to be used as a nursing home.
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