Ray McMillan was looking for one thing when he decided to move into an aged care facility: “I came here to be in a safe environment,” the 88-year-old Hope Aged Care resident and Brunswick local says.
In normal times that might have meant finding a facility with a good nurse-to-resident ratio, access to allied health providers and properly maintained grounds. But as COVID-19 swept through Melbourne during the autumn of 2020, ‘safe’ suddenly took on a different meaning.
With its proactive infection response plan and medical approach to elderly care, Hope Aged Care emerged from the pandemic without a single case among residents or staff.
While Brunswick itself was a coronavirus hotspot, Ray felt far from the problems engulfing the suburb, the city and its aged care facilities. He had made the decision to move into Hope Aged Care two years before the outbreak after inspecting a number of nursing homes and finding Hope the most suitable. “I found the staff here very attentive,” he says. “They help us a lot – especially (the residents) with disabilities.”
Ray enjoyed his new home, which was positioned around the corner from the warehouse where he once worked as a clothes cutter. He made use of the rooftop garden and the centre’s busy roster of social activities, pleased that “something (was) happening all the time”. But he felt especially vindicated about his choice of facility when the pandemic struck.
Ray attributes this success to Hope Aged Care owner and operator, Professor Afif Hadj, who led a distinguished career in medicine before deciding to work with the elderly. “He’s an ex-top surgeon, and he kept us safe from coronavirus,” Ray says. “He got onto it first – he caught it before it even came. Everything was in place.”
By 'everything', Ray means the systems and processes devised by Prof Hadj that ensured mistakes made by other providers weren’t replicated at Hope Aged Care. Chief among these was the decision to stop staff from working across multiple aged care sites – a policy later implemented by the government to stem the tide of inter-facility transmissions.
As life returns to 'COVID normal', Ray is once again enjoying the full roster of amenities offered by Hope Aged Care. “We have ball games, exercise three or four times a week, movies, a dance group.” But even if the sector faces another wave of infection, Ray can rest easy knowing the medical professionals at Hope Aged Care have the systems in place to keep him and the other residents safe so they can enjoy their lives in comfort.
“I have really enjoyed the environment,” Ray says. “I look forward to a long stay here, and I recommend anyone to come along and join me.”