Patricia Dear, whose son Kearon has lived at Haylwyn most of his life, says families need absolute certainty. (ABC News: Josh Bavas)
Queensland’s Health Minister says he will overturn a decision made by his own department to soon close a unique residential centre for people with profound and complex disabilities.
- In January, Metro North Health Service staff told relatives the centre would close at the end of the year because it did not fit NDIS requirements
- Health Minister Steven Miles wrote to families telling them he was willing to keep the centre open for existing residents
- But respite services — offered to part-time residents — are only guaranteed until June, signalling a phase-out of services
But families remain sceptical and want a public declaration from Health Minister Steven Miles that the facility will remain open in the coming years.
The Halwyn Centre in Brisbane’s inner north-west is home to more than 30 high-needs residents and has been operated by the state since it opened in 1979.
In January, Metro North Health Service staff told relatives the centre would close at the end of the year, and its patients transitioned into different accommodation, because it did not fit the requirements under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
Under the changes, while the NDIS would pay for new facilities crucial 24-hour nursing care would hit a funding shortfall, as it remained a responsibility of the state.
Patricia Dear, whose son Kearon, now 44, has lived there most of his life, said “families need certainty”.
“We have profoundly disabled children with serious health needs and we have nowhere for them to go,” Ms Dear said.
“There is no prospect of a place being built that meets their requirements — we’re going to stay put — we are going to fight as hard as we can until there is no fight left.”
Minister’s guarantee for existing residents
Mr Miles wrote to the families this week, telling them he was willing to keep the centre open for existing residents.
“The Palaszczuk Government remains committed to the Halwyn Centre remaining open and continuing to provide quality disability supports, nursing care and personal care services for as long as residents continue to live there,” he said in the letter.
“I also believe that the Halwyn residents should have access to all the options that are now available to them under the National Disability Insurance Scheme.”
But Mr Miles said respite services — offered to part-time residents — were only guaranteed until June, signalling a phase-out of services.
“I’m advised that a full analysis of long-term options for sustainable respite services is nearing completion and the outcomes will be shared with you as soon as possible,” Mr Miles wrote.
Mr Miles has written to families telling them he was willing to keep the centre open for existing residents. (ABC News: Josh Bavas)
Majority of families want to stay
Bridget O’Connor has been appealing to the Minister to keep her brother Rory at the facility.
She said there was no other centres offering the same level of care.
“We know that the level of care they’re getting here — it can’t be replicated. It just would not be financially viable for anyone — for the NDIS or the State Government — to provide it on a smaller scale than at Halwyn,” Ms O’Connor said.
“The majority of the families are in support that they don’t want their family member to move from here, so that’s what we’re going to fight for.”
Rory O’Connor surrounded by family members, including his sister Bridget (far right). (Supplied: O’Connor family)
A spokeswoman for Federal Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher said the Commonwealth had committed to providing $7.5 million a year for the centre but that medical care remained the responsibility of the state.
“We have worked constructively with the Queensland Government to enable a smooth transition of NDIS participants residing at the Halwyn Centre into alternative accommodation, following their decision to close the Halwyn Centre,” the spokeswoman said.
Queensland Opposition disability services spokesman Christian Rowan said the communication between the State Government and families had been “abysmal”.
“It created significant distress to residents and families and it’s incumbent upon the State Labor Government to ensure that they have timely and appropriate communication with families to ensure these residents are not jeopardised,” Mr Rowan said.
“The Queensland Government had a responsibility right from the start to proactively ensure that their welfare and needs were looked after and that there was timely and appropriate communication.”
Families have been invited to meet with senior bureaucrats in the Premier’s office to discuss their concerns.
The Halwyn Centre at Red Hill has been home to more than 30 high-needs residents since 1979. (ABC News: Josh Bavas)