THE future of the Home and Community Care Services (HACC) program in Bundaberg is up in the air with Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service (WBHHS) considering privatising the service.
It could come as soon as March this year, with the final decision resting with the Federal Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA).
WBHHS chief executive officer Adrian Pennington said transferring the delivery of HACC services to another provider was still a proposal but the change could affect about 800 clients in the Bundaberg region and 600 in the Fraser Coast.
Mr Pennington said while clients could expect to receive similar or equal level of care under a new provider there were no guarantees the service would remain free.
"While it would be our preference for our clients' sake to keep the service free, we are unable to speculate what fees, if any, would be applicable in future as this would be determined by the new provider," he said.
"These clients will be notified of changes to the service via a letter this week."
HACC provides many services including meals on wheels, transport and nursing care to support older people to stay at home and be more independent in the community.
When the NewsMail asked how many jobs could be at risk Mr Pennington said: "As the consultation process with staff is ongoing, at this time I consider it premature and inconsiderate to discuss publicly staffing matters relating to HACC services."
He said a meeting had been held with staff last week to provide help including contact details for organisations including the Employee Assistance Scheme.
"We recognise this is a deeply unsettling time for people and I want to offer my assurance that we will support all staff and clients affected," he said.
He said the details of the proposal were still to be finalised.
"We are yet to properly liaise further with the Federal Department of Health and Ageing and the Queensland Department of Community Safety (DCS) as to what a transfer of services would involve, and a suitable alternative provider in the Wide Bay area is yet to be found."
Mr Pennington said on January 14 the WBHHS board supported a decision to stop the delivery of HACC services by the end of March 2013.
"However a transition process will be implemented to guarantee the needs of all clients are appropriately met throughout this time," he said.
Meanwhile a public meeting was to be held in Eidsvold last night to address the ongoing concerns around the future of the local hospital and the inability to attract permanent doctors.
The meeting comes after Premier Campbell Newman last week stepped in to reassure patients and staff that Eidsvold Hospital would not close.