SENTINEL-TIMES COMMENT

THERE’S more good news this week for Leongatha with the announcement that Woorayl Lodge is a step closer to building a $30 million, 77-bed, new aged care facility at a site they have earmarked on Boags Road.

Their centre in McCartin Street will remain.

There’s also the prospect that another developer will soon be seeking approval for a large-scale retirement village in the town.

Both these facilities are highly in demand with (1.) a shortage of upwards of 300 high-care beds in the Bass Coast-South Gippsland subregion, and (2.) no capacity for older residents in Leongatha and district to downsize into townhouses or apartments more suitable to their needs.

Both Bass Coast and South Gippsland have ageing demographics well in excess of the state average of 15 per cent; Bass Coast’s population profile is 27.7 per cent over 65 and South Gippsland’s 23.7 per cent with a further 8 per cent in both shires aged between 60 and 64 as at the 2016 census.

This is an opportunity for Leongatha to go all-in on an aged care strategy, not only meeting a critical need in the wider community but also with the opportunity to boost jobs and investment in the local economy.

Attracting other investors should be a goal.

Certainly, not everything is rosy in aged care at the moment and we have seen that some aged care facilities in our region are struggling financially.
The Commonwealth government needs to make good on its promise to invest heavily in aged care in the wake of the Aged Care Royal Commission and this too could play into the hands of others willing to invest here.

All the more reason for the South Gippsland Shire Council, in conjunction with Gippsland Southern Health Service, Woorayl Lodge and others, to show some leadership in assessing the threats and opportunities that exist locally in aged care.

And when these applications come before the shire for approval, the council should be moving heaven and earth to facilitate these projects, while at the same time urging other agencies, including the likes of South Gippsland Water, to get with the program.