Left to Right: Anne-Marie Corboy, HESTA CEO; Mary Fromberger, Wahroonga Aged Care; Helen Williamson, Bankstown City Aged Care; Craig Mills, RSL Care and Jean Kittson, MC.

Queensland aged care provider RSL Care has been named this year’s ‘Outstanding Organisation’ at the 2013 HESTA Aged Care Awards on Sunday night for its efforts maintaining services in the aftermath of January’s devastating flood emergency.

Fifteen of the network’s 29 retirement and residential care communities were impacted by the January storm and flood event — precipitated by ex-tropical cyclone Oswald — but most of its centres were operational again within hours or days after the flood waters hit.

At the worst affected site, RSL Care Fairways in Bundaberg, 108 residents were evacuated in a mass operation to four temporary accommodation sites.

More than 40 RSL Care staff from 12 other centres then travelled by car, bus and plane to support and relieve fellow team members who had been relocating residents as part of the organisation’s emergency response plan.

RSL Care’s Chief Executive Officer, Craig Mills, said many of the Fairways staff lost most, if not all, of their personal belongings during the flood emergency. In response, the organisation set up an employee appeal to help raise funds and made a one-off payment of $1000 to affected staff, under a new grant scheme.

“While there was much heartache and loss as a result of the flood, we also saw a lot of goodwill and generosity of spirit. In many ways, what tore a small community apart brought a bigger community together,” said Mr Mills.

RSL Care won the award from a group of five finalists in the category of ‘Outstanding Organisation’. 

Team Innovation Award

A pilot program designed to make residents feel more relaxed in a home-style environment earned the Better Together Cottage Team from Australian Unity’s Wahroonga Aged Care in Victoria the Team Innovation Award.

As part of the program, residents were moved into a designated 18-bed wing that was re-modelled as a self-sufficient ‘cottage’, designed to give residents more control and independence.

Under the Better Together service model, residents were given more say in how the centre was run and could elect to take over some aspects of the cooking and laundry work.

Wahroonga Team Leader, Mary Fromberger, said as a result of the trial many residents who previously spent the majority of their time on their own in their bedrooms, now spend more of the day in the cottage lounge room, enjoying conversations with staff and other residents.

“Another benefit has been giving aged care professionals more opportunity to genuinely engage with residents, resulting in higher staff satisfaction and residents enjoying having someone with them for longer periods each day,” she said.

RSL Care and Wahroonga Aged Care each received a $10,000 development grant to put towards their programs sponsored by ME Bank. 

The Individual Distinction Award 

Veteran volunteer turned board director Helen Williamson was honoured for her 40 years of service to Bankstown City Aged Care in NSW, picking up the Individual Distinction Award.

Mrs Williamson, 78, who was appointed to the facility’s Board of Directors this year, has raised more than $100,000 for the not-for-profit facility.

Mrs Williamson oversees the running of the kiosk at the facility, which sells food and goods to residents and visitors, with the funds going back into extra equipment and improved amenities.

The funds raised by Mrs Williamson and her team of volunteers have provided special clocks for vision-impaired residents, shower chairs, TVs, whiteboards and garden accessories.

Mrs Williamson received a $5,000 ME Bank EveryDay transaction account and $5,000 towards further education.

The judging panel included Patrick Reid, LASA CEO; Valerie Lyons, CEO Villa Maria; Klaus Zimmermann, outgoing CEO Eldercare; Diana Asmar, state secretary HSU Victoria Branch No 1 and Yvonne Chaperon, Assistant Federal Secretary with the ANF. 

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