Siblings fight to find a home for disabled father

Jody and brother Brendan McDonald have struggled for two years to get their father, Steven McDonald, disability support accommodation.
Jody and brother Brendan McDonald have struggled for two years to get their father, Steven McDonald, disability support accommodation. Ava Benny-Morrison

QUEENSLAND taxpayers are forking out more than $1000 a day to keep a Mackay brain injury victim in hospital, despite his family having found suitable accommodation at a third of the price.

Steven McDonald's life was turned upside down in 2011 when he suffered a brain aneurism and a series of strokes. The avid Broncos fan sustained behavioural and intellectual damage and now requires high level 24-hour care.

Unable to receive the round-the-clock care he needs in Mackay, he relocated to the brain jury unit at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane, which he has reluctantly called home for 15 months.

The former sports massage therapist's daughter and son, Jody and Brendan, uprooted their lives and also moved to Brisbane to be closer to their father.

The family has been told the cost to Queensland Health to keep their father in hospital could be as a high as $1800 a day. But the PA Hospital figures show the 2011-2012 average cost to keep a patient in the brain injury rehabilitation unit was $1026 a day.

Over the past two years, Jody and Brendan have lived in a half-way house, slept on a yoga mat and juggled casual work just to keep their heads above water to be near their 52-year-old father.

"We want my Dad to start living the life he deserves," Jody said.

"This is the man that protected us our entire lives and it's heartbreaking, as his only children, not to be able to give him a home to live in."

This year a Disability Services Queensland social worker told Jody about a permanent disability accommodation facility on the Sunshine Coast, Be Lifestyle Retreat. Jody visited the facility and the owner informed them there was ample room to have their father there.

It's estimated Mr McDonald could be accommodated at the Sunshine Coast facility if DSQ funded a high level care package, including 65 hours of care at a cost of $36-$45 an hour - or a maximum of $417 a day.

Asked why DSQ had not taken advantage of the availability, a spokesman replied: "Services will be offered when they become available."

"Due to client confidentially we are unable to discuss the details of any individual circumstances," a Disability Services spokesman said.

"The department is continuing to work closely with the family in this case.

"Due to the high demand for services and a limit to the amount of resources available, the department is unable to guarantee immediate access to the support the family is seeking."

In the meantime, the Mackay family's lives hang in uncertain limbo.

"Dad has not spent a night outside of hospital since July, 2011 and as anyone could imagine, we now have great concern for his mental health," Jody said.

Jody and Brendan, who now live on Brisbane's north side, have written to every Moreton Bay Regional councillor but their pleas for help have gone unanswered.

"We aren't doing this only for our father but for all people with disabilities who feel they don't have a choice and for their families.

"We deserve a choice."