‘Treated with contempt’: Sudden closure of Inglewood Aged Care Service leaves families furious

Elderly residents have been given three weeks to move out of a rural aged care home and their families say they have been let down by the charity provider.

Key points:

  • Churches of Christ in Queensland will close its Inglewood Aged Care Service at the end of the month
  • The not-for-profit has repeatedly assured council and local families it was not closing
  • Residents now face a 90km move to Goondiwindi, where some have no family

Churches of Christ in Queensland announced this week it will close the Inglewood Aged Care Service, between Goondiwindi and Stanthorpe, at the end of the month, citing financial and staffing difficulties.

Residents and the council say they were repeatedly assured for months by the operator that the home, which locals call Casa Mia, would not close.

Debbie Elliot’s 82-year-old mother, Lesley Reibelt, has lived in Inglewood since 1955 and moved into Casa Mia six years ago.

Ms Reibelt, who has dementia, now faces moving 90 kilometres to Goondiwindi, where she has no family.

“It took three to four months for us to settle her [in Casa Mia] because she just didn’t understand why she was there,” Ms Elliot said.

“She now calls it her forever home.”

Ms Elliot is worried her mother’s dementia would worsen in the unfamiliar environment.

“We’re not sure how much more we’ll lose of her memory,” she said.

“I have a brother and sister that live in Inglewood as well, so between the three of us we get to see her most afternoons.

“When she moves, we won’t be able to do that.”

Families told ‘nothing’s changing’

Stacey Gall’s 70-year-old father-in-law has lived at Casa Mia for two years.

Ms Gall said families were given 20 hours’ notice, by email, of a meeting on Wednesday when they were told the facility would close.

“That level of communication is just not good enough as far as I’m concerned,” she Ms Gall said.

“But that was obviously not ever the case.

“They have treated our community with contempt.”

An elderly man sitting at a table with four of his grandchildren hugging him.

Charlie Gall will have to move from the Inglewood facility to an aged care home in Goondiwindi by the end of the month.(Supplied: Stacey Gall)

Only three residents remain in the 11-bed facility after several left earlier this year.

Dave Doherty said he moved his mother from Casa Mia to a facility in Goondiwindi in August at the orders of management.

“The staff had no problem with mum staying there, the doctor had no problem,” he said.

“[Churches of Christ in Queensland] said she needed a higher level of care than they could provide.

“I’m sure that they’ve been knowing it’s going to close for 12 months and they were just picking people off.

“With mum gone they had the numbers to justify closing.”

Council snubbed by operator

Goondiwindi Mayor Lawrence Springborg said Churches of Christ in Queensland had cancelled a scheduled meeting about the facility’s future three months ago.

“We’ve tried to continually talk and we haven’t had phone calls returned,” he said.

“We just never, ever got a straight answer because you couldn’t sit down face-to-face and speak to anyone.

Cr Springborg said the operator maintained it was taking new bookings, but beds remained empty.

“We know that there have been significant enquiries, that people have been wanting to put their eligible loved one in there,” he said.

“There were no new bookings taken.”

Staffing, financial difficulties behind closure

In a statement, Churches of Christ in Queensland CEO Gary Edwards said he was “deeply saddened” to be closing the service and the organisation would support residents to move to new facilities.

Photo of an aged care facility from outside on a sunny day.

Casa Mia is an 11-bed facility but currently has just three residents.(Supplied: Churches of Christ in Queensland)

“We will do all that we can to make this move as smooth and stress-free as possible for all involved,” he said.

“Inglewood Aged Care Service faced a number of challenges that … included the changing residential aged care environment, the ability to attract qualified clinical support, and financial feasibilities.

Mr Edwards said the organisation planned to consult with the local community and council regarding the future use of the site.

“When evaluating the future of the service, we considered the continued availability of residential aged care in Inglewood at the neighbouring Multi-Purpose Health Service and the high-quality care available at our state-of-the-art residential aged care services in the Darling Downs and Southern Downs region,” he said.

“We are confident that the community continues to be well supported by these services to meet future aged care needs.”

The organisation operates multiple facilities in regional Queensland, as well as in Brisbane and Melbourne.

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