Aged care

Happy opening celebration for Prom Country House

“I HAVE never seen a crowd with such beaming smiles,” declared the Member for Gippsland South, Russell Broadbent, as fifteen years after the need for a new aged care facility for the district was first identified, the official opening took place in Foster last Thursday of Prom Country House.

Out the front of the recently completed 60-bed complex in O’Connell Street, in front of a crowd numbering upwards of 200, the president of Prom Country Aged Care, Sandy Bucello, summed up the general feeling when she declared it “a very happy day for our community”.

Ms Bucello was one of several speakers who remarked on the enormous community effort which had gone into realising the dream of a facility which would serve the needs of the district’s aged well into the future.

Master of ceremonies, Llew Vale, began by welcoming everyone, especially the residents of Prom Country House, most of whom were seated in the front rows and were, he acknowledged, “the most important people”. He then introduced Gunai/Kurnai elder ‘Aunty Madge,’ who delivered a traditional welcome.

Speaking next, the PCAC president outlined the long journey from 1999, when the need for a new facility was first recognised, through the work to merge the Foster (Banksia Lodge) and Toora (Prom View Lodge, formerly Toora Nursing Home) facilities on the one site at Foster, to the completion of Prom Country House at the end of last year. She praised the board members, past and present, of South Gippsland Hospital and Prom Country Aged Care, for their foresight and management, and she thanked the many individuals and organisations who had helped along the way. She singled out former PCAC board president Rob Knight and one-time general manager Jo Stringer, saying it was largely down to them that the project was successful in attracting funding of $9 million from the federal government in July 2009.

“That was the turning point,” said Ms Bucello, pointing out that $9 million was a long way towards the $11.707 million total cost of the project.

She said that an enthusiastic band of volunteers, led by Julie Need, took on the task of raising the $2.707 million shortfall. At the launch of the fundraising campaign, community organisations and individuals pledged an impressive $500,000. That figure and more has been raised in the last few years, thanks to the generosity of many people, with particularly large sums from a few notable sources – the James Trust, the Banksia Lodge and Prom View Lodge auxiliaries, the Toora and District and Foster Community Bank Branches of Bendigo Bank, the Rotary Club of Foster and the Lions Club of Toora.

The build progressed well, said Ms Bucello, resulting in a “light, cosy building, a lovely place to live or visit” and the finished project was delivered close to the planned deadline. Moving day for the 60 residents was December 9, 2013, and it ran smoothly, thanks to the hard work of staff and community volunteers. The majority of residents have embraced their new home, said Ms Bucello, several remarking how thrilled they are to be living in a new building for the first time and particularly delighted to each have an en suite!

Prom Country House’s oldest resident, the extraordinarily nimble 102-year-old Una Camac, was tasked with cutting the ribbon to mark the official opening of the new building, alongside the Federal Member.

“We need this!” declared Mr Broadbent of the new facility, praising all who had contributed to making it a reality. He had special praise for the residents of Prom Country House. “This facility is about recognising the contribution you have made. We have been the great beneficiaries of all that your generation achieved.” He named the establishment of bush nursing hospitals (of which Toora Nursing Home was once one) as one such achievement. He also promised to take a request from the PCAC board for more funding to the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.

Thursday’s was a double celebration, with the launch also of ‘Family, Community, Philanthropy: the story of aged care in Prom Country.’ Commissioned by Sandy Bucello as PCAC president, the book was written by Shirley Westaway and Marge Arnup, who drew on the minutes of meetings, public records, existing local histories, newspaper articles and club scrapbooks, as well as undertaking interviews with local residents, to chronicle the history of aged care in the district. Thanking all those who contributed to the history, and thanking Sandy Bucello “for the opportunity to record what our community can do”, Ms Arnup said “it blew me away!” It made her proud, she said, to be living in Prom Country. “We’re amazing, we really are!”

Copies of the book were available for sale at the launch and can now be purchased from Foster’s Little Bookshop.

The CEO of Prom Country Aged Care, Rhett McLennan, was the final speaker. As well as thanking the staff for their care of residents, he took the opportunity to pay tribute to the many volunteers who help at Prom Country House, in tasks ranging from bus driving to fundraising, gardening to music. “If we didn’t have the community we do, we’d have to pay for such services – and we wouldn’t have the building we do,” he pointed out.

Enjoying lunch afterwards in the smart new facility, many guests relished the opportunity to tour it for the first time. With high ceilings, wide corridors, carpeted floors and an abundance of windows and courtyards, Prom Country House is light, bright, comfortable and much more like a home – or a luxury hotel – than an institution. This feeling is enhanced by the hanging of artwork selected by local interior decorator Lian Casson. Some paintings were moved from Banksia Lodge or Prom View Lodge, but some new pieces were purchased, too, including some stunning works commissioned from local artists Catherine Wheeler Blamey, Kerry Spokes and Kim McDonald. Altogether they reinforce the community achievement that is Prom Country House.


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