Nursing homes to get fire sprinklers
THE state’s nursing homes will be given until mid-2014 to retrofit fire sprinkler systems, but both the O’Farrell government and industry are calling on the Commonwealth to meet some of the $170 million cost.
The new state regulations will come into force in January next year, and will give operators 18 months to install the sprinklers.
But in a move to prevent closure of homes, those who can’t afford to retrofit their facilities will be given three years to make the changes, with an additional one year extension possible for exceptional circumstances, Sydney media report.
The tough new safety standards were triggered by a fire at a Sydney’s Quakers Hill nursing home last November which killed eleven people, and prompted a government audit that found 55 per cent of facilities, or almost 600, did not have sprinklers.
“Residents of aged care buildings are a vulnerable group,” says New South Wales Minister for Aging, Andrew Constance.
“We now know sprinklers help reduce a fire’s intensity and help buy critical time to safely evacuate residents.”
However, NSW will not contribute any money to help operators meet the multi-million cost of retrofitting facilities, instead saying it’s the responsibility of the federal Government.
“We think that with the financial capacity of the Commonwealth, with their revenue base, they should take responsibility for assisting those providers who are going to require assistance,” says Mr Constance.
“We’ve noted that the Howard government did it previously; we think the Gillard government should do it now.”
Industry group Leading Age Services’ Charles Wurf says the cost of retrofitting sprinklers will put particular pressure on smaller facilities, and those in rural and remote areas.
Mr Wurf says as fees are regulated by the Commonwealth, operators will need to divert already stretched funding to meet the new state standards.
Without more federal funding, home closures were a “distinct possibility”, as is an impact on care standards, he says.
“We do not want a reduction in care standards and care delivery outcomes, but that must be a reality if we have to divert already scarce government funding to provide into our building stock,” says Mr Wurf.
“We will continue to advocate to the Commonwealth that there needs to be a funding response to this requirement on aged care providers.”