A powerful church has been given a $650,000 taxpayer bailout for the struggling nursing homes it plans to sell – but will never have to pay it back.
A powerful church has been given a $650,000 taxpayer bailout for the struggling nursing homes it plans to sell – but will never have to pay it back.

Church’s $650k bailout despite nursing home sell-off

TAXPAYERS have handed the Presbyterian Church $650,000 in an emergency bailout to prevent the closure of five Queensland nursing homes it now hopes to sell.

The federal Health Department gave PresCare the crisis cash during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Courier-Mail can reveal.

But the church-owned aged care operator will not have to pay back any money if it sells its nursing homes in the Brisbane suburbs of Carina and Thornlands, and in Townsville, Rockhampton and Maryborough.

"Financial support has been provided to ensure the continuity of care for residents,'' a Health Department spokesman said yesterday.

"These funds have been directed to the ongoing operational costs of maintaining residential facilities while navigating the impacts of COVID-19.

"As such they do not constitute payments that would be repaid in the event of a sale or transfer.''

The Presbyterian Church of Queensland (PCQ) has appointed corporate insolvency firm McGrathNicol to review PresCare, which lost nearly $13 million last financial year.

PresCare is being sued for $2.36 million by sacked CEO Greg Skelton, who was stood down from his $500,000 a year job in February.

The church is considering the "possible sale and transfer'' of its aged care homes.

Greg Skelton
Greg Skelton

In a property fire sale, it has placed two luxury beachside apartments at Maroochydore, used by ministers and staff for family holidays, as well as three church campsites - Camp Tinaroo, Camp Bunya and Camp Tamborine - on the market.

The PCQ boasts a vast property portfolio, and paid $7.8 million for office space in Spring Hill in 2015.

It has decided to sell its IT business, Surecom, its Walk On Wheels and Mobility Wholesale Distributors businesses, and its Connect2Health allied health provider.

It also plans to sell its commercial food business, Contented Chef.

In a letter to staff, PresCare states that if any of its nursing homes are sold, "care to residents will continue at the same high quality''.

"We will aim to transfer employees to the new operator,'' the document says.

In a memo to church members on April 30, PCQ Commission of Assembly moderator Reverend Philip Strong said the church would focus on "gospel-based congregational ministries''.

"While as a church we remain committed to caring for aged and vulnerable members of our community, providing residential care is extremely resource intensive,'' it says.

"It is becoming more so.

"The operations of PresCare have required substantial funding from the church and a recent review reveals further funding will be required that is beyond the resources of the PCQ.''

Even before the COVID-19 crisis, most Australian aged care providers were struggling to break even, with the latest StewartBrown industry analysis revealing 60 per cent recorded an operating loss in the nine months to the end of March.

  

Originally published as Church's $650k bailout despite nursing home sell-off