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Nursing home CEO expects ‘Golden Age’ to be over for Epping Gardens co-owners

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Co-owners of the coronavirus-stricken nursing home Epping Gardens should be prepared for a tough industry environment, Heritage Care chief executive Greg Reeve says to Sydney Morning Herald.

Greek Australian investors Tony Antonopoulos and Peter Arvanitis, who each own half of Heritage Care, have made good money in the past from the aged care sector. Yet now, the profits are expected to come to a dwindling halt.

A report from aged care accountant StewartBrown showed that 60 per cent of Australian aged care homes recorded an operating loss in the nine months to March this year because of falling occupancy and rising costs.

Heritage Care directors and shareholders Areti and Peter Arvanitis, and Stacey and Tony Antonopoulos at the launch of the new Rolls-Royce luxury showroom in Richmond, Melbourne in 2017.

Mr Reeve said the company’s 10 nursing homes in NSW and Victoria, including Epping Gardens, were struggling in a tough industry environment, as were most others in the sector.

“Both directors have injected significant capital into Heritage Care in recent years to refurbish the homes and significantly improve standards,” he told SMH.

The Sydney Morning Herald also shared new details on the “lavish” lifestyle of Mr Antonopoulos and his wife, Stacey, who together own a $10.5 million Canterbury mansion, and prestige cars including a Lamborghini, a Maserati and a limited-edition Rolls-Royce.

“In the past there was money to be made from aged care, but at the moment few people want to invest,” Mr Reeve said. “One may well ask why we’re in the game. It’s because we believe the situation will turn around, and Heritage wants to be a boutique, high-quality provider.”

Epping Gardens aged care home is at the centre of a coronavirus outbreak that has hit 135 people, according to figures released on Tuesday. Mr Reeve conceded that a group of staff members had held a “baby shower” at the aged care home and had been stood down as a result, but he insisted that Epping Gardens had been “absolutely, categorically prepared” for the pandemic, with enough training and equipment.

He said he had been calling from early in the pandemic for ill residents to be moved out to hospital based on clinical need, but that “this was opposed by the Department and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission as not being the best process”.

“The issue was that we could not get access to staff when we needed them, due to the rate of infections, so staff were on sick leave or simply unavailable due to the fear of working in such an environment. That’s just the harsh reality.”

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