The shortage of care beds in Oamaru could be lessened if Council approves a request made by the Observatory Retirement Village Trust, responsible for the construction of the retirement village, to loan an additional $3.5 million so that the Trust can make an immediate start to Stage Two of the project that will see an extra 20+ community care beds created. Mayor Gary Kircher says when the retirement village opens this month all beds in the retirement wing will be full from day one but the demand for more outstrips current supply. Current reports indicate a backlog “in excess of 50 people,” awaiting assessments for residential care. “When the retirement village was first proposed, it was going to add an initial 40 beds to the current supply. With the closure of Rendell On Reed next week, our community will still be down a total of 19 beds. If Council provides the additional funding, these much-needed beds will become available a lot sooner than initially planned and could be the difference between elderly people being able to stay in Oamaru, and having to leave the district to get appropriate care.” In a report to Council, Chief Financial Officer Paul Hope says the Trust has made good progress with Stage One of the project, having sold all 12 apartments and the first 10 villas. This means the Trust would be able to repay Council earlier than agreed as well as start providing funding for health care far earlier than expected. This, in turn, aligns with Council’s vision to help provide the Trust with the ability to return a profit back to the community in the form of improved health services, something Mayor Gary Kircher and Councillors are keen to achieve. “Providing the Trust with financial assistance has been based on the premise that profits would be returned to the community. Eventually this could see over $1m of extra funding every single year for our hospital and other health-related services – a significant contribution that benefits all of our ratepayers.” “The Trust will soon have the proceeds of the sales for the Stage One apartments that can cover the building of more care beds, or the second cohort of apartments, but not both. The apartments make the best business sense as there is an immediate return when they are built, with the occupational rights paid for straight away by the purchasers. But unless we get more care beds, the community faces the situation again of having some of our older people placed in care outside of the Waitaki district, or those folk having to stay in their homes and not get the care they really are needing.” Council will consider this proposal next week before making a decision as to whether it will grant the additional loan.