May 09, 2023

Sarina Aged Care transfers ownership as regulatory pressures mount

Sarina Aged Care transfers ownership as regulatory pressures mount
Mounting regulatory pressures have led to the end of community ownership for Sarina Aged Care as its board hands operations over to a larger provider. [Source: Shutterstock]

Community-owned Sarina Aged Care has made the proactive decision to transfer operations to Ozcare, a statewide aged care provider in Queensland.

While residents and staff will not have to move as the facility will remain open with minimal disruption to services, the loss of community ownership is still a major blow to regional aged care. 

Sarina, 11 hours north of Brisbane, is home to approximately 5,500 people. Sarina Aged Care has been in operation since 1991 and to ensure the facility is able to provide high-quality aged care services in the future, the Board opted to transfer ownership to Ozcare.

“Sarina Aged Care’s Board took this decision carefully and proactively to ensure a more secure future for the Sarina community in light of increasing external pressures,” explained Ralph Johnson, Board Chairperson. “As a small community-owned provider, with a volunteer board of directors, we have worked hard over more than 30 years of operation to provide excellent services and create a very strong financial position.”

Sarina’s 48-bed residential aged care centre along with its 13 independent living units will be impacted by the change. No residents will be forced to move and all their staff will be offered new contracts of employment with Ozcare.

Reasons for change

  • Sarina’s Board identified legislative change and increased regulatory burden as two major obstacles for the small ownership group
  • An increasing number of residents with complex care needs also led to the decision to sell to a better-resourced operator
  • Ozcare’s presence in nearby Mackay showed the organisation is invested in the local community

Speaking to The Courier Mail, Mr Johnson said one of the biggest challenges for the Board was that they operated as volunteer directors.

“The actual viability of the company is not only a financial thing, and luckily we are profitable, it is also in the governance side of things, it is becoming absolutely a different level of difficulty to try to have the right governance for everybody to be able to sleep at night,” he said.

In addition, Mr Johnson said his staff had found it increasingly difficult to meet the needs of residents as a small operator. He said residents deserved to be supported throughout the decision-making process but it often became “far more complex” when determining the most appropriate way to support them with fewer resources.

Similar challenges have forced several regional aged care operators to close their doors across Australia, including Feros Village in Byron Bay and Blue Care’s Millbank facility in Bundaberg.

As regional operators continue to shut across Australia due to an increased number of Government mandates and standards, large-scale not-for-profit operators like Ozcare and Respect are moving into more regional centres.

Respect is building a presence in regional settings. They recently added Sir William Hudson Memorial Centre (SWHMC) in Cooma, showing there is still life in regional aged care when the appropriate resources are available.

Ozcare, which has 16 residential aged care facilities across Queensland, plans to support the staff and the community through a seamless ownership transition.

“We would like to assure everyone that it will be business as usual for residents, families and staff,” Ozcare Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Tony Godfrey told The Courier Mail. “Safeguards will remain in place to protect the tenure of all residents and all staff will be made offers of continued employment under no less favourable conditions.”

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