Windsor aged cared facility's fight to remain independent

Jules Whitty, board president of Fitzgerald Aged Care, is determined the facility maintains its standards, even in the face of commercial pressures.  Picture: Isabella Lettini
Jules Whitty, board president of Fitzgerald Aged Care, is determined the facility maintains its standards, even in the face of commercial pressures. Picture: Isabella Lettini

WINDSOR’S Fitzgerald Memorial Aged Care Facility turns 21 next year, coming of age as an independent, not-for-profit establishment.

However its board president and one of its founders, Jules Whitty, is worried that without some extra financial help, Fitzgerald Aged Care may not be able to do all it wants.

Dr Whitty said despite the facility’s achievements, money worries were not far away, as it now requires maintenance and an upgrade.

He said the board would also like to build a special dementia care unit, but cannot afford to.

But he fears if Fitzgerald joined with Catholic Healthcare or Richmond Community Nursing Home (Hawkesbury Living), it would lose its autonomy. ‘‘Who else would take us over?’’ Dr Whitty said.

He said the facility was of a very high standard.

‘‘We have 48 residents, each with their own room,’’ he said.

‘‘Our food is cooked on the premises and prepared scientifically with a dietician’s advice.

‘‘One thing we’ve noticed with our new residents is they often gain weight.’’

Rooms are sound-proofed with cement walls and ceilings, blocking most of the noise from aircraft using the nearby Richmond RAAF Base.

This also enhanced the premises’ fire-resistance. ‘‘But because of new fire regulations we had to retrofit the place with sprinklers,’’ Dr Whitty said.

‘‘We were able to pay for that out of our budget, but it was difficult; we only make small profits.’’

Fitzgerald Aged Care was built in 1995.

Dr Whitty said the facility also had significant historical roots in the district, and could be said to be the last remnant of the Hawkesbury Benevolent Society, founded in 1818. The society operated many charities, including the old Hawkesbury Hospital from 1846 to the 1980s.

After NSW Health and Catholic Healthcare took over the main hospital, the society ceased most of its functions, but its remaining funds helped build Fitzgerald Aged Care.

‘‘In 1992 we also received a government grant of $2.3 million and we had a $250,000 bequest left us by Marjorie and Charles Wymark,’’ Dr Whitty said. He said the facility was named after a 19th century Hawkesbury pastoralist, Robert Fitzgerald, who generously donated to the Benevolent Society.

‘‘Commercial aged facilities spend little on food and skimp on care. We provide first-class service and feed all our residents well.’’

He said Fitzgerald would continue like that as best it could.

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