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GSD presses Govt on elderly care and warns against ‘profit over wellbeing’

Pic by Johnny Bugeja

The GSD has again called on the Gibraltar Government to provide clarity on its plans for the provision of elderly care in Gibraltar, raising concern that the well-being of elderly citizens “is at risk of being disregarded in favour of profit”.

While work on the new modular Rooke elderly residential facility is progressing at a fast pace, the Opposition said numerous questions it had raised over the project and the wider National Economic Plan remained unanswered.

“How we treat our elderly citizens, which is clearly a vulnerable group in our society, defines us,” said GSD MP Damon Bossino.

“As things stand and from what we are witnessing in respect of the Rooke residential project, the GSD is very far from coming to a favourable conclusion in this respect.”

“We will continue to search for clarity and answers.”

The GSD has been pressing the government for details as to whether the Rooke facility will ultimately replace Mount Alvernia and who will own and operate the new home.

It said many people in the community were worried as to whether “we are in effect witnessing the privatisation of our elderly care services”.

The party noted that Sir Joe Bossano, the Minister for Economic Development and architect of the National Economic Plan, had told Parliament the Government expected to pay less per bed for the cost of care in the Rooke facility than in Mount Alvernia.

For the GSD, that raised a question as to the standard of care residents would receive.

It said there was a “very real risk” that standards might be lowered, arguing that when elderly care services are privatised “profit has the potential of trumping other considerations”.

The GSD also questioned whether the construction of a building using modules pre-fabricated in China was in line with best practice for elderly residential homes, particularly as the Government had indicated that a section might be earmarked for people with dementia.

And it added too that there was no clarity on long-term plans for Mount Alvernia once it was wholly or partly empty of residents, which “appears to be the Government’s aim”, or whether the site had already been identified for sale to private speculators and, if so, to who.

“The residential home at Rooke raises huge issues about the direction of travel of elderly care in Gibraltar,” said Daniel Feetham, the Opposition spokesman for the elderly said.
“From quality of life to privatisation of services.”

“The lack of transparency to the questions we have raised just increases the concerns.”

The GSD said it would again table questions on the project in Parliament, where it had already pressed Sir Joe for details both in December and in January,
Sir Joe had previously told Parliament that the Rooke facility, construction of which is ultimately being funded by the Gibraltar Savings Bank through investment loans via its subsidiary GSBA, will be taken on by a private investor that will then rent the facility back to the Gibraltar Government to provide accommodation for older citizens, with GSBA also making interest on its investment.

He said too that he had “more than one” investor interested in taking on the home once it is completed, adding that the project was vital to accommodate an ageing population that is increasingly living longer.

Sir Joe told Parliament that places would be offered to people on the waiting list for Mount Alvernia, adding that the Rooke home was in a better location closer to town and to St Bernard’s hospital.

He had previously stated that current residents of Mount Alvernia would also be offered the option of a room in the new facility.

But he stressed that while the Rooke home would have space for a clinic, it was not a nursing home and that not everyone required round-the-clock medical care.

The GHA would continue providing medical care for those who needed it but the new facility would ease pressure on both Mount Alvernia and other facilities for the elderly.

“We need to be clear about one thing, this is only the beginning of what we need to do,” Sir Joe said, highlighting that Gibraltar, in common with other developed countries, had an increasingly ageing population who lived longer.

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