Church responds to AdventCare closure

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Warburton, Victoria

The Victorian Conference has been forced to defend its decision to close AdventCare Yarra Ranges, after public backlash and protests from the community.

We’ve taken their suggestions, every single one of them, and investigated the possibilities. But it didn’t give the board any confidence of a suitable way forward. If it had, we would have loved it.

The announcement to close the facility was made on August 3, with members of the Warburton community responding immediately.

A Facebook group with the acronym “S.W.A.G. (Save Warburton Aged-Care Group)” currently has 845 members, all who are deeply concerned about the wellbeing of the residents.

“People in this group love the Yarra Ranges facility,” wrote one member. “There is a lot of grief being felt right now, and a lot of questions around why the facility needs to be closed.”

Conference president Pastor Graeme Christian said the closure was a point they definitely did not want to come to.

But keeping AdventCare open for the next five to 10 years will cost $2.5 million in refurbishments to address the size of the rooms, as many are too small.

Federal Government budget cuts also contributed to the decision to close the facility.

“If the local church wants to find somebody who they can work with to take the home over and operate it, we need to know about that. But we haven’t heard anything yet,” said Pastor Christian.

“If that is a possibility we would love to be able to make that happen but we haven’t had anybody who has said we’re putting the cash on the table.”

Discussions about the viability of keeping the Yarra Ranges facility open started in the 1990s, with the Federal Government officially threatening to close down the home in 2005 if rooms were not resized.

2014 saw an independent review on AdventCare, with a formal 12-month moratorium placed on the decision of the future of the Warburton home.

“During that time, we needed to come up with a viable business plan for its operation,” said Pastor Christian.

“And if it was not possible to achieve a suitable business plan, the home should be closed.

“We didn’t give them a year; we gave them two years. And we worked with the Warburton [local church and community] people, meeting with them often, but ultimately our final proposal to the board was not viable.”

Warburton residents met with Pastor Christian and AdventCare CEO David Reece last Tuesday (August 23) to present a four-fold strategy and a petition of 1800 signatures gathered from the community.

They also expressed again their willingness to work with the Adventist Church in finding a solution.

Pastor Christian took the petition and strategy to the AdventCare board last Thursday (August 25), but said there was nothing new presented that the board hadn’t already been evaluated.

“We’ve taken their suggestions, every single one of them, and investigated the possibilities,” he said. 

“But it didn’t give the board any confidence of a suitable way forward. If it had, we would have loved it.” 

Members from the Warburton community still remain optimistic, and with resources the key focus, are beginning to discuss different tactics. 

“If S.W.A.G. is to save the AdventCare Yarra Ranges facility, then the members need to stop blaming people and boards for past actions,” wrote one member on Facebook.

“[We need to] begin to look at how the necessary capital can be raised to renovate the facility so that it meets current standards for high-care.” 

Pastor Christian said that now, more than ever, it is a matter of prayer.

“I understand the hurt of the people in the Valley,” he said.

“We want to treat the residents, their families and our staff with the deep respect they all deserve.

“We’ve allowed them to present to the executive committee, and to the AdventCare board. We’ve listened to them; I’ve had numerous phone calls, and I’ve prayed with many, many people from the Warburton community, because, again, we just want to be led by God.

“It’s a very sad thing when we come to a point where we can no longer operate something that has provided a valued service over a period of time. 

“But we would encourage people everywhere to pray for the residents of Warburton, and especially for those who are involved in this whole process.”