Bellorana’s Watson Street home to shut

From March 31 next year, the Royal Freemasons’ Benevolent Institution (RFBI) will close its Watson St building.

Part of the RFBI Bellorana Masonic Village in Bellingen, the aged care facility does not meet new building regulation codes.

“RFBI is committed to providing high quality care and accommodation and the Watson St building does not meet the standards we want to offer our residents,” RFBI CEO Frank Price said.

“It has been determined that better outcomes can be achieved by repurposing the building and investing in a brand new building … upgrading the rest of the village.”

RFBI has had a presence in Bellingen since 1975 when it first opened Oakman Gardens Retirement Village, and Mr Price said the Freemasons have no plans to withdraw from the area.

“In recognition of the changing needs and preferences of older people, this move forms part of the organisation’s ongoing capital development program,” he said.

“It is designed to ensure all RFBI villages are equipped to provide high quality care and offer living environments that reflect the needs and preferences of older people.

“We are also progressing with plans to construct a new building on the bowling club site to complement the existing services and offer modern, custom-designed aged care accommodation for older people in the area.”   

Concerns have been raised about the immediate impact on residents.

Linda Cochrane's father is a resident at the Watson St address and she said the move would adversely affect him.

“The RFBI has not upheld agreed care responsibilities, in fact the RFBI has completely ignored its responsibilities,” Ms Cochrane said.

“My father has paid a costly bond, which is required to secure accommodation in their chosen aged care facility.

“The residents have been the victims of the RFBI making a business decision to close down Bellorana’s Watson St due to financial costings to maintain this older facility.

“My overarching concern is the enormous stress being forced upon these residents with this unplanned relocation. For an organisation that boasts of its multi-million dollar portfolio investments in aged care, the RFBI has placed business before its residents.

Bellorana Masonic Village general manager Sue Beehag said residents and their families had been offered support, including placement elsewhere.

"I have been working with staff and residents through this transition process to see all residents have been supported to find alternative accommodation and make this transition as smooth as possible for them,” Ms Beehag said.

“Wherever possible residents have been placed within the same village or within other local RFBI Villages – RFBI Raleigh Urunga Masonic Village and RFBI Coffs Harbour Masonic Village.

“Through our discussions, some residents have opted to move into another RFBI Village and a few have opted to move to other services. 

“In all instances we have worked with our residents and their families through this transition.”

For information on Royal Freemasons’ Benevolent Institution’s housing plans call 6655 2777.

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