Barry O’Farrell hits Wayne Swan for aged-care sprinklers
BY: AMOS AIKMAN From: The Australian December 28, 2011 12:00AM
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell has written to Acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan asking for hundreds of millions of dollars to retrofit nursing homes with sprinklers in the wake of a fire that killed 11 elderly residents.
About two thirds of the state’s roughly 900 aged-care facilities do not have sprinklers, a figure National Seniors of Australia chief executive Michael O’Neill described as “shocking”.
“We are talking about our most vulnerable Australians – they’re in nursing homes because they need help with basic daily needs,” Mr O’Neill said. “Sprinklers are a basic standard that we expect in our childcare centres, schools and hospitals – why not nursing homes?”
Eleven residents of the Principal Quakers Hill nursing home in northwest Sydney died last month after fire swept through the building in the early hours of the morning. A staff member has been charged with multiple counts of murder.
Victoria and Queensland require all nursing homes to have sprinklers retro-fitted, but NSW does not.
The Australian understands a government audit has determined 636 aged-care facilities in NSW do not have sprinklers, and estimated the cost of fitting them at between $236 million and $700m, subject to private-sector contributions. Most of the homes not retro-fitted with sprinklers were built before they were made compulsory in 2002.
A spokeswoman for Federal Ageing Minister Mark Butler said the government received a letter from Mr O’Farrell last week and would respond. Spokesmen for the Premier and NSW Ageing Minister Andrew Constance declined to comment.
Fire and Rescue NSW says there is no question sprinklers help save lives.
But Illana Halliday, chief executive of the Aged and Community Services Association, which represents the not-for-profit aged-care sector, told the ABC yesterday her members could not afford to fit sprinklers.
“We would need to seek funding for that,” she said.