After 10 years of campaigning, the Kolora Aged Care Facility’s new multi-million dollar wing opened on Monday morning.
The opening of the $7.6 million building was attended by New England MP Barnaby Joyce, Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall, and Armidale Regional Mayor Cr Simon Murray.
The new 32-bed wing replaces the old 22-bed facility, built in the 1970s.
“To have a facility that’s modern, that meets all the standards, that’s larger than the former facility, and right next door to the MPS and the GP clinic,” Mr Marshall said, “is absolutely magnificent for the future of this community.”
The federal government provided $2 million, through Mr Joyce’s efforts, and the council the balance of $5.6 million.
The woman of the hour was Dot Vickery, Guyra’s citizen of the year.
In charge of the former Guyra council’s aged care committee, she tirelessly campaigned to have the facility improved.
“I never thought this day would come,” she said.
“Kolora became a passion with me because I never had anywhere to go when my father needed it.”
He had to go to Glen Innes – and lived only 10 days there.
“I’m sure it was the moving away,” she said.
At the time, Guyra had no aged care facility, only units. Now, it has an ultra-modern facility, conveniently located close to the hospital, with climate control, solar power, and a state-of-the-art kitchen.
“I’ve been waiting 15 years for this to happen!” Kolora manager Jan Brazel said. She is delighted to have new technology, wide corridors, and extra beds.
Those beds will be filled gradually over the next six to 12 months, with the first new client coming in early June.
“I have a full waiting list already – and the waiting list gets greater every day!” Ms Brazel said. “The demand is there for the beds.’
Ms Vickery has already picked out her room, looking out over Sole Street.
“This community and everyone who works, who lives, and who will be in this facility owes Dot Vickery a huge debt of gratitude,” Mr Marshall said.
Plans to build the new facility had been afoot since 2013, when the former Guyra Shire Council discovered that it would be more economical to build a new facility than to try to do up the old one.
Armidale Regional Council mayor Simon Murray, a member of the ex-council, said that the decision to upgrade was a hard one, because of the cost. It came down in the end to having an aged care home in the community.
Mr Joyce said the government’s investment in the facility was part of its commitment to ensuring parity in services between big cities and regional towns.
“I’ve been fighting for improvements at Kolora for years,” Mr Joyce said, “and it’s great to see the results of our hard-fought campaign for funding now finally realised.
“We need to make sure we respect the dignity of people to be born in Guyra, have a job in Guyra, retire in Guyra, and, if required, go to an aged care facility in Guyra.
“This is a testament to the passion of the people who want to make sure that Guyra remains the best place to be born, to grow up, to work in, to live, and to see the rest of your life out.”