BALLARAT Health Services is selling 129 aged-care bed licences, prompting fears future demand for aged-care may not be met.
The move comes as the state government continues to sell aged- care beds in Melbourne after announcing last year that they needed to divest 1000 beds in order to save up to $75 million.
The government had previously stated the cuts would not affect regional areas.
The licences enable private or not-for-profit organisations to operate aged-care facilities and are required to gain Commonwealth government funding.
While the sale of licences in Ballarat relates to non-operational aged-care beds, there is no guarantee the licences will remain in the Ballarat region.
The advertisement says a “preference” will be given to prospective buyers committed to keeping the licences in the Grampians region.
The state opposition yesterday slammed the sale and said the decision to sell 129 aged-care licences was “unprecedented”.
Ballarat West MP Sharon Knight said the sale would prevent Ballarat Health Services from expanding local aged-care facilities in the future.
“The cuts are clearly forcing providers like Ballarat Health to sell off bed licences, effectively selling off their ability to meet the increased demand in the future,” Ms Knight said.
The nurses union agreed, saying the sale would cost Ballarat residents in the long run.
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation assistant secretary Pip Carew said the sale was simply about cost cutting.
“The Napthine government has continually told us that it’s only planning to sell off metropolitan nursing home beds, but this is further evidence that the fire sale is creeping into regional Victoria,” she said.
The decision was defended in state parliament yesterday when Health Minister David Davis was questioned over the Ballarat sale.
“There is no evidence of any type that there is a shortage of aged-care services in Ballarat,” Mr Davis said.
“I am confident that Ballarat Health Services is very focused on delivering outcomes for its community.”
Mr Davis’ spokesman Ashley Gardiner later told The Courier that the sale of unutilised licences would, in fact, provide resources for the improvement of existing facilities.
Ballarat Health Service chief executive officer, Andrew Rowe, said it was anticipated that the sale would ultimately see an increase in the number of nursing home beds servicing the Ballarat area.
“This is an extremely positive development and any revenue generated by the sale will be utilised to redevelop existing BHS residential aged-care facilities,” Mr Rowe said.
Expressions of interest close on February 14.