It’s Home Sweet Home for oldies

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Breakthrough talks may end heartless exile.

It’s been an age but a breakthrough appears imminent in Queenstown’s elderly-care crisis.

Southland District Health Board and Presbyterian Support Services (PSS) are working together on attracting a private specialist elderly-care operator to the Wakatipu.

The newcomer would take over PSS’s Wakatipu Home for the Elderly – a 28-bed resthome in SDHB’s Lakes District Hospital (LDH) building.

That provider would also take in long-term elderly hospital patients – presently limited to just six beds in a cramped LDH.

This six-bed LDH limit has seen local elderly routinely exiled to far-off resthomes outside the Wakatipu – to the distress of their families.

After an Official Information request, Mountain Scene this week obtained a brief report on the SDHB-PSS talks and interviewed DHB boss Brian Rousseau.

There’s “a meeting of minds”, Rousseau confirms.

As well as PSS exiting Wakatipu resthome care and SDHB converting LDH elderly-care beds to acute beds, the deal would overcome the biggest obstacle to an elderly-care provider setting up – this newcomer would avoid heavy capital costs of a brand-new facility.

“If we allow PSS to sub-lease [the resthome out] for a period, to bring in a new provider that can provide hospital-level beds as well as aged residential care beds, then both parties are a winner,” Rousseau says.

So’s the new provider: “They come straight away into an existing facility, [they] can set up business [immediately].”

The provider would be part-funded by the government via SDHB’s standard aged residential-care contract.

Rousseau won’t put a timescale on any deal but things are moving – an unnamed elderly-care operator who’s been talking to PSS now wants to meet the SDHB boss directly.

“That’s scheduled for later this month.”

But the deal would first require SDHB to relax conditions in its existing lease of the resthome wing to PSS – a lease with about 80 years to run under a “peppercorn rental arrangement”, says Rousseau.

A restriction preventing PSS from sub-leasing for profit would have to be wiped – so PSS could extract a lump sum from the newcomer to “recover costs and value for [the PSS] business” by granting its successor a discounted rental.

Alternatively, SDHB might buy PSS out of its lease at valuation, recovering the money by charging the new operator full rent.