When Melbourne went into lockdown last month, the management at Ryman Healthcare assessed the infection risk of all its staff at their Weary Dunlop Retirement Village in Wheelers Hill and Nellie Melba Retirement Village at nearby Brandon Park.
They found 45 employees had risk factors, such as living with a person who works at another aged care facility, living with a person who works at a high-risk medical setting (such as a hospital) or living with someone who works at a COVID-19 testing site.
Fortunately for Ryman, the company had spare accommodation at its retirement village sites, and it was able to offer affected staff free accommodation in the villages where they work.
Though some staff members took matters into their own hands and made their own accommodation arrangements, 12 staff took up Ryman’s offer and moved into the fully-furnished retirement living apartments – completely free of charge.
Ryman did the same thing at the height of the pandemic last year, when dozens of staff members chose to move into the two villages. Some stayed for more than four months.
Ryman Healthcare Australia CEO, Cameron Holland, said, “Since COVID-19 first came onto our radar early last year, our goal has been to make our villages safe havens for our residents and staff, and that’s guided everything we’ve done since.
“It’s a huge commitment for these people to make. They’ve volunteered to leave their loved ones and shut themselves away from the outside world, all because they want to protect the residents they care for.
“Seeing what they do day in, day out, it doesn’t surprise me at all that they’re prepared to go to these lengths, but we’re still incredibly proud of them for the sacrifice they’re making.”
Ryman Healthcare is also providing all staff with free meals “to make life easier” during the lockdown.
Aileen Malang, who works at Ryman’s Nellie Melba home, has been staying in one of the apartments for over a week.
Last year COVID-19 resulted in the deaths of 655 Victorian aged care residents during the state’s devastating second wave.
“We don’t want that to happen to our residents,” Malang told The Herald Sun.
“They are very fragile and at high risk of getting the infection.
“We have been looking after our residents for a while now and we care about them,” she said.