The fight to remain at Byron Bay’s Feros Village is well-and-truly alive as residents defy orders to move out ahead of the aged care home’s impending closure.
Feros Care, a not-for-profit organisation, announced it was going to shut down the 30-year-old facility in March as it was no longer fit for purpose under new Government aged care standards. It has previously failed aspects of the Aged Care Quality Standards.
The Feros Care Board decided redevelopment would be the best option, forcing its residents to find new accommodation.
Options are limited and beds are at a premium in Byron Bay. If openings at other Feros Care villages appeared, residents would have Wommin Bay and Bangalow to choose from, a 40-minute and 15-minute drive, respectively.
Two months later and over a dozen residents still remain. 95-year-old Kate Smorty is one of them, and the Feros Village resident has galvanised the town of Byron Bay as she fights for her home.
Ms Smorty told The Project she was in absolute shock when she was first told the home would close and she would have to find somewhere new to live.
“They’re [Feros Care] trying to move us out, tell ‘em they’re dreaming,” Ms Smorty told The Project. “They’ve underestimated us. We’re not demented, we’re not easily persuaded.”
“I like saying to them [fellow residents] what are you worrying about? We’re staying, they’re on a lost cause.”
Other residents expressed a wide range of emotions, including anger and sadness, while one said the decision was unfair and un-Australian.
Residents and their families also seek transparency as Lawyer and Byron Bay Shire Councillor, Mark Swivel told The Project that “no one at any level of Government has told Feros that they must close”.
This echoes a recent statement made by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner, Janet Anderson, who said the regulators will support aged care providers that are delivering safe, good quality care.
Her comments came after Brightwater and Wesley Mission announced they would be closing aged care facilities in Perth and Sydney, respectively.
Locals have also expressed uncertainty about Feros Care’s plans to create a new intergenerational community on the site as they told The Project the Village was already what the community needed.
“This is the gold standard of what aged care should look like. That’s why we need it to exist,” Mandy Nolan said.
Ms Nolan also criticised the provider for its alleged handling of the situation as she believed residents have been coerced and pressured into leaving.
In a statement provided to The Project, Feros Care said no residents have been bullied or pressured as they search for new accommodation. Feros Village will even remain open until suitable accommodation is found.
For Ms Smorty, however, it’s likely she will be one of the very last people to leave.
“The only way they can make me move is for two big burly policemen to carry me out and I’d be scratching their face,” she said.