Bupa Aged Care sold to Uniting

Bupa’s aged care facility in Tumut has been sold to Uniting.

Bupa Tumut has been sold to a not for profit Christian organisation, raising hopes for local families that some of the staffing challenges which have faced the aged care facility will be resolved.

The sale will come into effect October 1, with the new owners – Uniting NSW.ACT – pledging to retain current staff on the same or similar terms and to work closely with Bupa “to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible for residents, clients, staff and volunteers.”

“Ongoing care needs will be maintained at the highest standard during this transition period and residents will continue to receive high quality services within their home, to ensure that they continue to lead a happy, healthy lifestyle,” said a Uniting spokesperson.

The news was broken to families last week when Bupa called a meeting with the families of residents at the Tumut facility. Bupa has also confirmed that it will sell care homes in Berry, Eden and Griffith to Uniting as part of the same deal. 

“We understand that these are our residents’ homes and we believe this change will be a positive one,” said a Bupa spokesperson.

Uniting operates 70 residential aged care homes in 55 locations across NSW and the ACT, offering care and support through a dedicated team of nearly 5,000 employees.

The care facility in Tumut has struggled with staffing numbers, with a large number of temporary agency staff being called upon to supplement the workforce.

Local resident Trina Thomson has been watching over Bupa’s care for her sister, who moved into the facility just over five weeks ago. 

Mrs Thomson said she had been concerned about the number of agency staff at the home and was hopeful that since Uniting operates as a not for profit, the staffing issues might be resolved.

“From my perspective, Bupa is basically beholden to shareholders,” she said.

“I hope that [the home can now] go to a model of care that is hopefully more focused on the residents and the services provided rather than the directives form the company.”

Mrs Thomson was quick to praise local staff, saying she felt the facility was operating “as best it possibly can under the restrictions placed on it by the mother company,” but said she felt that the company’s financial model doesn’t fit the needs of the regional Tumut community. 

As a result, she said the Tumut facility has struggled to attract and retain permanent staff, and said there have been significant communication barriers with temporary staff, which can make emergency situations feel even more confusing and frightening for residents and their families.

Mrs Thomson’s father was also a resident of Bupa prior to his death in 2015. She said she was disappointed with the level of assistance he received after a fall which occurred shortly before his death and that she was nervous to place her sister in the same facility.

“It’s really quite offensive as the sibling of a resident in a place like that and you know what they don’t have… and you see the Bupa logo plastered all over the Australian cricket team,” she said.

“It seems that the aged care facilities are at the bottom of the [Bupa] pecking order and the commercial side of care becomes more important than the compassionate side of care.”

Mrs Thomson said she was very pleased to hear Uniting would be taking over her sister’s care.

Uniting NSW.ACT confirmed the purchase, pledging to continue the organisation’s “vision of increasing our role as a not-for-profit service provider to regional communities to meet the needs of older people by providing them with the comprehensive quality of care we are known for.”

The not for profit operates as a community services ministry of the Uniting Church.

“We are passionate advocates for our Household model of care which offers choice, control and independence to all older people, especially to those most vulnerable,” said a spokesperson.

“This vision to see senior Australians live their life to the fullest, reflects the mission of the Uniting Church, which is central to our approach.

“We are looking forward to working with the Uniting Church Presbyteries, local congregations and communities to enhance and expand the services available to seniors in these regions.”

Tumut currently has one Uniting Church, located on the corner of Wynyard and Simpson Streets, which also supplies its hall for the weekly Community Pantry initiative, which is run by the combined churches.