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Feds urged: fund sprinkler systems for nursing homes
17/08/2012 - Sprinklers will become mandatory in NSW nursing homes following the deaths last year of eleven people in a fire at a Sydney home. Adam Bennett
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But with the state refusing to pay for the safety devices, some facilities may have to close — unless the federal government comes up with funding.
With NSW nursing homes given until mid-2014 to retrofit sprinkler systems, the O'Farrell government and the industry are calling on the commonwealth to meet some of the $170 million cost.
The new state regulations will come into force in January next year and will give operators 18 months to install the sprinklers.
To prevent homes closing, those which can't afford to retrofit their facilities will be given three years to make the changes, with an additional one-year extension possible for exceptional circumstances.
The tough new safety standards were triggered by the deadly fire at a Quakers Hill nursing home last November. The fire prompted a government audit that found 55 per cent of facilities, or almost 600, did not have sprinklers.
However, NSW will not contribute any money to help operators meet the multi-million-dollar cost of retrofitting, saying it is the responsibility of the federal government which funds the sector.
"We think that with the financial capacity of the commonwealth, with their revenue base, they should take responsibility for assisting those providers who are going to require assistance," NSW Ageing minister Andrew Constance said.
NSW Planning Minister Brad Hazzard said Prime Minister Julia Gillard had an obligation to help.
"They are the funding authority, they should be doing it," Hazzard said.
But Federal Ageing Minister Mark Butler ruled out providing additional funding, saying when Victoria and Queensland made sprinklers mandatory the commonwealth did not provide extra financial assistance.
"Building and fire safety standards are a matter for state and territory governments," Butler said in a statement.
Charles Wurf, from industry group Leading Age Services, said the cost of retrofitting sprinklers would put particular pressure on smaller facilities, and those in rural and remote areas.
Without more federal funding, home closures were a "distinct possibility", and services could suffer if scant funds had to be used on sprinklers, he said.
The announcement comes a week after a video from NSW Fire and Rescue showed a sprinkler system could have saved lives during the Quakers Hill fire in western Sydney last year.
Roger Dean, 36, who worked as a nurse at Quakers Hill Nursing Home, has been charged with 10 counts of murder over two fires that broke out in the facility on November 18.
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