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Information about the future of IRT Woonona

6 October 2023

Dear family member/resident representative,

As you know, we met with residents and their relatives today to discuss our plans for the future of IRT Woonona – thank you to those who were able to attend. The purpose of this message is to provide you with an overview of the information discussed at this meeting.

I have also included an update about how we are managing the risk of a gastroenteritis-like illness at your loved one’s care centre.

Outbreak update

Pleasingly some residents living in Ribbonwood on level 2 who were experiencing symptoms earlier in the week have now recovered, however there are still a number of residents in this area who have mild symptoms. Unfortunately, Blueberry Ash and Flametree ground level are now affected as well with one resident in each area experiencing symptoms.

We have contacted the nominated representatives of the affected residents and we are closely monitoring the residents in consultation with their GPs.

We continue to follow strict infection control protocols site-wide, including the allocation of staff to specific areas, reinforcement of the correct use of PPE, thorough and frequent hand-washing with soap and water (this is deemed more effective than hand sanitiser for gastroenteritis-like viruses) and the close monitoring of all residents for any symptoms.

If your loved one becomes unwell, staff will contact you and will continue to keep you updated on their progress towards recovery.

The future of IRT Woonona

You may recall from previous correspondence that we have conducted some investigation work to evaluate the condition of the buildings and their associated infrastructure at your loved one’s aged care centre.

Evaluation findings

We have now concluded the evaluation process and have finalised our investigations. IRT Woonona is one of our oldest sites, and we have determined it is in significant need of improvement.

Built in the mid to late 1970s our investigations and assessments determined some areas of the site (Ribbonwood, Blueberry Ash buildings, and the building referred to as the rectory) are no longer fit for purpose, or designed in a way that will meet future expectations of older Australians.

To this end, and after careful consideration, and wanting to ensure we can provide the best living environment for our residents, the IRT Board has approved the decision to wind down the delivery of our services in the Ribbonwood and Blueberry Ash buildings.

This is the first step towards achieving IRT’s future vision for the site which is to deliver more living space and lifestyle opportunities for older Australians in the northern suburbs of Wollongong.

Winding down our services in these buildings is in preparation for redevelopment of the site which will require the demolition of Ribbonwood, the Blueberry Ash buildings and the rectory.

Care services will continue to be delivered in the Flametree building, and retirement village units at Camellia Lodge will also continue operating; and Bluegum Sanctuary (the former church) will be retained.

What does this mean for my loved one?

This will mean that over time residents currently living in the Blueberry Ash and Ribbonwood buildings will be required to relocate to another care centre.

We value each of our residents and understand that a change like this at this stage of life can cause anxiety. For this reason we do not wish to rush your loved one to make a decision, and we are committed to working with them and you to find another IRT care centre that suits their needs and preferences.

We intend to start this process by first meeting with each resident and their nominated representative individually to understand personal needs and preferences so we can determine the best way to proceed with identifying a new home.

We have recently gone through a similar process with our residents of IRT Diment Towers which is also to be redeveloped, and we were pleased to successfully transition our residents to new homes in several of our other care centres.

Next steps

Meanwhile, our designers and architects will continue to work on plans for the future redevelopment of the site which will require the removal of the Ribbonwood and Blueberry Ash buildings.

Demolition of the buildings requires Council approval, so to get the ball rolling with this we intend to submit the application for demolition to Wollongong City Council this month.

Our application to Council will require details of how this will be carried out, including management of dust, noise, pedestrian safety, and traffic both in and out of the site. Council is expected to make it available for public viewing soon after our submission.

While Council assesses that application we will continue to refine our plans for the future of the site, and keep all our stakeholders informed. When the work by our designers and architects is finalised, these plans will require submission in the form of a major development application to Wollongong City Council.

We are committed to consulting with you and our other stakeholders as the details of this take shape and leading up to submission to Council. During this time we will have more details to share about the timing of the demolition which is not expected to be before September next year, as well as the drawings and features of the redeveloped site, and project milestones associated with its construction.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact your Care Manager.

Yours sincerely

Nia Briguglio
EGM – Aged Care Centres

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