The community of Cunnamulla are speaking up for the sake of their seniors, petitioning to have the Yapunyah Lodge aged care facility reopened, 14 months after it was closed.
Owned by the Paroo Shire Council and previously serviced by non-for-profit organisation Churches of Christ, the facility was closed in December 2020 while at full capacity.
As a result, patrons of Yapunyah Lodge were forced to seek alternative living arrangements, with several having to move away from their families to aged care homes in larger towns.
Paroo Shire Council started a petition after the Department of Health questioned the need to reopen the facility and asked to see numbers showing how many community members actually required aged and disability care.
To date, the petition has gained 475 signatures and garnered a massive response from Cunnamulla locals who believe they or their loved ones will require the services of Yapunyah lodge, either currently or in the near future.
Paroo Shire Mayor Suzette Beresford said it was imperative that the older members of the Cunnamulla community be given adequate care and access to supported living that was close to home.
"Certainly at this stage people have had to move away from Cunnamulla to Toowoomba or Charleville into aged care facilities because there's not enough support here for them," she said.
"Some of these people just need a bit of support with their daily living, they're not necessarily bed-ridden or anything like that, they're more low care, and Yapunyah Lodge is just an ideal facility for that type of care.
"People don't want to move away, they will stay in their own home for as long as possible but then when they do need that support for daily living, they want to know that there is a facility in town for them to go to where their relatives and friends can still see them whenever they want to ,and they can go out whenever they like.
"They get outings at this sort of facility and there's recreation provided. It's a very nice form of living."
After the closure of Yapunyah Lodge, Queensland Health committed to the provision of aged care services in Cunnamulla, where they converted some empty space at the hospital into four units and a recreational space, which were designed for aged care residents.
The Mayor said the council was very grateful for the work that Queensland Health had done to convert the hospital into a multipurpose health service.
However, it has become apparent that the demand for aged and disability care extends beyond the capacity of the hospital units, thus the community is requesting that Yapunyah Lodge be reopened.
South West Hospital and Health Service Chief Executive Dr Anthony Brown said that although the Federal Government is responsible for delivering aged care services, Queensland Health was dedicated to ensuring that seniors have the option to continue living in Cunnamulla.
"We are working with all stakeholders and agencies - including the Federal Government - to ensure the availability of such services in the Cunnamulla community so those requiring care can remain close to families and friends," he said.
"As part of this commitment, we have worked with the Commonwealth to transition Cunnamulla Hospital into a multipurpose health service (MPHS).
"This allows Cunnamulla Hospital to access additional funding from the Commonwealth to deliver residential and community aged care services locally - like other MPHS facilities in the South West such as Injune, Surat, Mitchell, Dirranbandi, Augathella, Mungindi and Quilpie.
"It is a flexible and integrated approach that provides people with access to acute hospital services, allied health, early intervention programs and community health services, as well as aged care services, all under the one roof."
Mayor Beresford said that apart from petitioning to reopen Yapunyah Lodge, there were also hopes that Queensland Health may be planning to set up additional units at the hospital.
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