Jul 12, 2023

Feros Byron Bay residents make their last stand as closure date nears

Just ten residents remain at Feros Village Byron Bay, including family members of Diane and Maree, who are fighting for the home’s survival. [Source: Eve Jeffery/The Echo]

The remaining ten residents at Feros Village Byron Bay are still standing tall almost five months after being told their residential aged care home would shut down due to impending redevelopment plans.

Key points:

  • Over 40 residents were notified of the Feros Care Board’s decision to close the picturesque care home in February 
  • The Board acknowledged the 33-year-old facility was no longer fit for purpose under modern Government requirements
  • Feros Care said it would support residents to find new accommodation, while it would work with the local community to design a new suitable aged care site

Since February, residents have been steadfast in their refusal to leave, led by 95-year-old Kate Smorty. Ms Smorty has been one of the most vocal supporters of her home, passionately calling for it to remain open so she can continue to live in the community she loves. 

In an update provided to local news outlet, The Echo, Ms Smorty said there’s no suitable or affordable accommodation available in the Byron Bay region where her family still lives.

“We don’t want to leave our homes in our four cottages on this 2.25 acres of space and beautiful gardens,” Ms Smorty told The Echo

“I especially enjoy mealtimes, each in our own cottages with our ten fellow residents, we’re like family dining together.”

“There is no suitable and affordable alternative place for me within easy reach of my family, who live close to Byron. Feros Bangalow has a mix of residents, with mostly people with high care needs, while I am still a mobile, intelligent, independent-living 95-year-old, who wants to continue with my activities here in Byron village.”

Ms Smorty and the last few residents in the home care community have received a brief reprieve from Feros Care, who recently revealed they had delayed the home’s closure. However, time is ticking and the doors are set to shut on July 19 despite the Feros Board recognising the toll the experience has had on its residents. 

What they said: Excerpt from the Feros Board statement

“We fully acknowledge the emotional impact that this decision has had on residents, families, employees, and the entire community. We acknowledge that this is a stressful time, and we want to assure everyone that residents continue to have sufficient time to find their new home.”

“Whilst the closure may not be the popular decision, it is the responsible one. The Feros Care Board has a fiduciary duty to act on the high risks associated with the shortcomings of the current facility in accordance with regulatory and legislative requirements.”

According to The Echo, the Board hopes for “common sense” from the residents as it seeks to move them to more suitable accommodation, including Feros Care sites at Bangalow (a 14-minute drive) and Wommin Bay (a 44-minute drive). 

“We do hope common sense prevails and that the ten remaining residents engage with us because there is ample accommodation in the region for them to choose from, including within Feros Care.”

Calls for the council to take over

Byron Bay locals have asked for the council to take over ownership of the land and facility. Some believe Feros has been misleading as there’s no clear communication from the Government regarding necessary closure. 

“The government has definitely not asked for the village to close, and has also not provided approval for any redevelopment, or for the closure itself. Feros is misleading the community by saying they can close, when it is their duty to run homes for the aged, as the manager of this Crown Land site,” Maree Eddings, a local representative and daughter of one of the residents, told The Echo.

Ms Eddings also stated the Byron Shire Council has agreed in principle to replace Feros as Crown Land manager, a decision supported by families and residents. 

“If Feros doesn’t want to run the aged care village, they should handover to someone who does. We want the Government to take action to keep the village open. It’s a valuable community asset that we cannot afford to lose.”

Unless there is a drastic change in events, it appears the Feros Board is committed to closing the Byron Bay Village rather than handing it over to another operator. In a statement provided to The Echo, the Board cited the Aged Care Act, the Aged Care Standards and the User Rights Principles and the Quality-of-Care Principles as legislation with standards the facility no longer meets. 

With just over a week to go before closing, it leaves the remaining ten residents in a precarious position. The Feros Board said no one will be left homeless or forcibly removed.

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