THOUSANDS of elderly Gympie residents are in for a shock if they visit the Home Assist office in Barter St.
The care provider quietly packed up its Gympie office and moved everything to Maryborough this month.
It's a move that has enraged Member for Gympie David Gibson and could cost the organisation hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost funding.
Maryborough, Burnett, Cooloola Districts Home Assist is jointly funded by the state and federal governments, but Mr Gibson it only deserves its state funding if it maintains a presence in Gympie.
"In my view, if this organisation doesn't want to have a presence in Gympie then we should just reallocate the funding to a group that does," he said.
Late yesterday Mr Gibson requested advice from the minister responsible, either Housing or Communities, on how a physical presence could be kept here.
Almost 30% of MBCD Home Assist's 11,000 clients live in or near Gympie.
The provider's program co-ordinator Paul Goddard defended the move from Maryborough yesterday.
He said Home Assist serviced a broad area from Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Maryborough, Gympie, and the North and South Burnett, and the Gympie office had always just been a "branch office", even though it operated for almost 10 years.
Gympie was a "luxury" Home Assist could not longer afford due to rising costs, he said.
Gympie clients had not been making use of it so the decision had been made to move everything to Maryborough, he said.
He said the money saved by not running an office here would be spent on client services.
"Gympie was never an independent office," Mr Goddard said.
"It was just an office we opened for the convenience of our clients in Gympie but they did not use it."
The change would not affect the services available to Gympie residents and, in fact, a free 1800 number had now been established so clients no longer had to pay for the cost of a phone call, Mr Goddard said.
Of the staff employed at the Gympie office, the administrative staff member would be reabsorbed and relocated within the organisation. The field officer was taking some time off and then planned to retire.
A third staff member said she was laid off just before Christmas and told her position was "no longer funded".
Home Assist Secure can be contacted for free on 1800 232 234.
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