Avonlea Rest Home
A one-stop shop for care
Business View Oceania interviews Anna Looby, Facility Manager of Avonlea Rest Home, for our focus on Aged Care & Retirement Villages in New Zealand
Avonlea Rest Home is a charming, community-focused rest home located in Taumarunui in the midst of beautifully landscaped grounds and scenic river, rail and rural views. Administered by a Charitable Trust Board made up of community members, Avonlea offers 24-hour Hospital and Residential Care of a very high standard. Level 4 and Level 5 care, including both private and funded respite, is provided by an experienced staff who treat residents with respect and compassion and make it their mission to ensure every person feels at home. Offering a diverse and stimulating day programme aimed at improving and maintaining independence whilst socialising in a friendly, safe environment, Avonlea is known as a one-stop shop for care – and just a lovely place to live.
Facility Manager, Anna Looby, shares the backstory of the facility: “At first, Avonlea was a maternity hospital located in a different building. The Taumarunui Hospital Board in those days owned the rest home and they decided they were not going to be in aged care, so they sold it to a Community Trust that was set up to oversee the home. It was rebuilt in the mid-1970s when the Trust board took over. The trustees were members of the community – St John, federated farmers, church members, and a lot of organizations. At that time, it was just rest home level care and people could come and go as they pleased. There was no such thing as subsidies. It was designed like a boarding house, where the residents were more independent, if you wanted to come and pay. Meals were cooked for them and many had their own vehicles.”
About 25 years ago, the Avonlea Trust Board took on hospital level care, in addition to rest home. So patients who used to live in hospital because they’d had a major stroke or were very dependent, could now come into the Level 5 care at Avonlea. Today, the facility consists of one building with wings off the main corridor, a large dining room and kitchen at the front with admin down one end and activities and hospital level care down the other end. When Avonlea is operating at full capacity, there are 50 employees including admin staff, registered nurses, enrolled nurses, quality staff, caregiving staff, kitchen, maintenance, cleaning, and activities. As well as caring for their residents, they also offer a day-stay program that runs five days a week. Presently there are 20 clients from the community who come into Avonlea Rest Home for the day to socialise, participate in various activities, outings and enjoy morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, and then they’re taken home. The facility also provides Meals on Wheels seven days a week; a main meal and dessert that’s delivered locally by Avonlea kitchen staff at lunch time.
Looby acknowledges, “The beauty of being in a rural area is that we offer both levels of care – hospital and rest home – so if a resident deteriorates to a point where they’re requiring extra care, they don’t have to leave. A lot of our clients have been born and bred in Taumarunui, and some of them were actually born in the old Avonlea, so it’s like a full circle. We also have valuable volunteers that come in from the community. One is a lovely Spanish lady who’s moved to Taumarunui; she pampers the residents, does their hair and nails, massages, and waxing – and they love her. We also have plenty of pets that visit. One of our day-stay ladies brings in her 15-year old Chihuahua, called Jackson. He sits in a little basket in her walker.” Because of the rural location, it’s not unusual to have horses, lambs, rabbits, even turtles come to visit. And residents are taken out in the van for Pet Day and cake judging at local schools.
The aim is to make it as much like home as possible. The view itself is a joy… looking out over farmland; the railway crossing over the Ongarue River. “Some of the old farmers can sit and watch the world go by from their room,” says Looby. “A few years ago, we had an issue where we only had eight hospital level beds available at Avonlea Rest Home. They were always full and there was always a waiting list. That was when we only had 41 beds, so residents were having to go out of town, which was really sad. I had ladies crying on the phone because their husbands didn’t have a bed. It pulled at your heartstrings. So, about seven years ago, I put a business case to the Trust Board that we needed to extend our bed capacity. Being a not-for-profit, it was a big risky project, but we took it on and built eight extra ensuited rooms onto our facility, with a dual use of rest home or hospital level care. That really seemed to be the right amount to avoid other people having to go out of town.”
For the last 18 to 24 months, the Trust has been looking at building independent living units. Avonlea sits on a large site with a large open area that could accommodate 100 sq. metre duplexes. Looby reports, “We’ve been working with Warwick Bell from Bell Kelly Beaumont Team Architects Ltd. He’s been the forerunner with all of this. And we just got pricing, so we’ll be discussing the construction tender from Mike Greer Homes and moving on from there. Taumarunui has no retirement village as such, so there is a need. It’s about people who have lived here all their lives, worked and contributed to the community, having to leave because the only accommodation is rental flats that are available through the Council.”
Avonlea Rest Home is a member of Community Trusts in Care Aotearoa (CTCA), comprised of nine rural, not-for-profit Community (health) Trusts. The respective Trusts are the shareholders, and the senior managers of each Trust are the Directors of the company. According to Looby, “About five years ago, some of us managers of rural rest homes were meeting every so often for support and collegial advice, so we formed the CTCA. We actually set up the company to look at how we could survive in the industry because we’ve got some pretty stiff competition against the big corporates. And some of us are in lower socio economic communities. With the nine of us there are 500 or so beds and some have retirement villages, as well. So we bulk purchase all of our food products, our incontinence products, our medical products, our paper and cleaning products.”
CTCA uses one preferred auditing agency, and Cubro for all medical beds and equipment. Recently, they’ve taken on AON Insurance and received massive discounts because they’re insuring nine rest homes. Although food supply purchases are contracted with Bid Food, the individual rest homes are allowed to purchase produce from the area, so it doesn’t cut out the locals. Along with a discounted bulk purchase price, at the end of each financial year the spend comes back to the CTCA as a percentage rebate from suppliers. “And we’re looking at taking on Associate Members as part of CTCA,” says Looby. “They’ll get the right to join us and get the bulk purchase discount. We’ve saved thousands just on incontinence products and medical supplies – it’s been very beneficial.”
As for long-term objectives, adding the independent living units is at the top of Looby’s wish list. She notes, “We’re hoping that will happen in the next six to twelve months, and then it will take eight to ten months to complete, with all the earth works, etc. We’ve also had interim plans drawn up for revamping and modernizing our Administration area. But we can’t focus on too much and there’s always an issue of funding. Our trustee Constitution has now changed so suitable representatives can volunteer to come onto the board, they no longer have to be members of specific community groups. The trustees are all volunteers from our community and very supportive to me.”
Speaking to what makes Avonlea Rest Home so special, Looby adds, “My staff are brilliant, they are Avonlea’s biggest asset. We have one lady who’s now been here for 35 years, two others for 25 years. Our core staff are very long serving locals who have a passion for the aged care industry. We never looked back when we built our new wing and we hope the independent living units we’re working towards will be great for the whole community. We support and sponsor groups like the Police Guild (one of their main focuses for this coming year is on elder abuse), Westpac rescue helicopter and the Special Children’s Extravaganza because a local child gets to go on a special day. In a small community, being a Charitable Trust is not just about taking, it’s about giving, as well.”
*image at top is Avonlea Rest Home Manager Anna Looby working on a puzzle with a resident.
The following rural, not-for-profit Community Trusts are working together as Community Trusts in Care Aotearoa (CTCA) with a united passion for improving aged care.
AVONLEA TRUST, Taumarunui
HILLVIEW TRUST, Te Kuiti
RANGIURA TRUST, Putaruru
BEATTIE COMMUNITY TRUST, Otorohanga
MOANA HOUSE TRUST, Whangamata
TE KAUWHAWTA RETIREMENT TRUST, Te Kauwhata
CAMBRIDGE RESTHAVEN TRUST, Cambridge
POHLEN HOSPITAL, Matamata
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AT A GLANCE
Avonlea Rest Home
What: A Charitable Trust, 50-bed residential care facility
Where: Taumarunui, New Zealand
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