An aged care facility in rural Queensland has announced its imminent closure, devastating residents and their families. The Inglewood Aged Care Service will close by the end of the month, giving residents only three weeks to move out. Families of residents say they have been let down by Churches of Christ in Queensland, who run the aged care home, and repeatedly assured families that the facility was not closing.

Inglewood Aged Care Service is located 150km south of Toowoomba, in southern Queensland. It is one of few aged care homes in the area and much loved by residents and locals alike. The eleven-bed facility is fondly referred to as Casa Mia, or ‘my home’. 

Residents now face a 90km move to Goondiwindi, where some have no family nearby. They were previously told that Inglewood Aged Care would be remaining open. Then families were sent an email giving them 20 hours’ notice of a meeting on Wednesday 7th October, where they were told the facility would close in a matter of weeks.

Stacey Gall, whose father Charlie Gall has lived in Inglewood Aged Care for two years, is appalled by the lack of communication and care from the service provider. ‘There’s been multiple emails back and forth with the same message – nothing’s changing, your loved one is still going to receive the same care moving into the future,’ Ms Gall says. ‘But that was obviously not ever the case. They have treated our community with contempt.’

The facility only has three residents after several left during the year. Dave Doherty says he was made to move his mother out of Inglewood and to a facility in Goondiwindi under orders from Churches of Christ in Queensland management. ‘They said she needed a higher level of care than they could provide,’ he says. ‘But the staff had no problem with mum staying there, the doctor had no problem.’

Mr Doherty suspects that the closure has been planned for some time. Churches of Christ in Queensland have cited financial and staffing difficulties for the decision to close the aged care home, but the local council have confirmed that they have not been taking new bookings despite having empty beds and eligible people making enquiries. ‘I’m sure that they’ve been knowing it’s going to close for 12 months and they were just picking people off,’ Mr Doherty says. ‘With mum gone they had the numbers to justify closing.’

Goondiwindi Mayor Lawrence Springborg says that Churches of Christ in Queensland have exhibited ‘downright rudeness’ in their refusal to engage with the community. They cancelled a meeting with the council scheduled for July which was intended to discuss the facility’s future. ‘We’ve tried to continually talk and we haven’t had phone calls returned,’ he says. ‘We just never, ever got a straight answer because you couldn’t sit down face-to-face and speak to anyone.’

Cr Springborg says Churches of Christ in Queensland claimed to be taking new bookings, but none were ever taken. ‘We know that there have been significant enquiries, that people have been wanting to put their eligible loved one in there,’ he says. ‘There’s been obfuscation, there’s been denial, there’s been a complete lack of transparency.’

Lesley Reibelt, who is 82 and lives with dementia, has lived in Inglewood Aged Care for six years. Her daughter Debbie Elliot says that she is worried about the effects of the move to a new facility on her mother’s dementia. Ms Reibelt has lived in Inglewood since 1955 and has no family ties in Goondiwindi. ‘It took three to four months for us to settle her [in Inglewood Aged Care] because she just didn’t understand why she was there,’ Ms Elliot said. ‘She now calls it her forever home.’

A change to an unfamiliar environment could potentially worsen Ms Reibelt’s dementia, as could a decrease in family connection. ‘We’re not sure how much more we’ll lose of her memory,’ Ms Elliot says. ‘At the moment she knows us all. With this traumatic move, we could lose that.’ Ms Elliot and her siblings all live in Inglewood, and Ms Reibelt is visited by members of her family most afternoons. ‘When she moves, we won’t be able to do that,’ Ms Elliot says. 

Churches of Christ in Queensland CEO Gary Edwards released a statement saying that the Inglewood facility has ‘faced a number of challenges’ that led to its closure. ‘We will do all that we can to make this move as smooth and stress-free as possible for all involved,’ he said. Churches of Christ in Queensland operate multiple facilities around regional Queensland, and Mr Edwards said he was ‘confident that the community continues to be well supported by these services to meet future aged care needs.’

‘Churches of Christ in Queensland only made the decision to cease operations at the service recently following extensive evaluation of options,’ Mr Edwards said. He noted difficulties to continued operations including ‘the changing residential aged care environment, the ability to attract qualified clinical support, and financial feasibilities.’ 

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