My mother was a resident at Kirrak House Wonthaggi for just over four years from 2012.
While in their care, she was treated with respect and dignity, but as many do when facing long term care, she regretted losing her independence and in particular her garden.
I read with interest and some dismay in the Sentinel-Times of November 28 of the continuing delay in improving the amenity of Kirrak House, Wonthaggi. Now this week I read of a huge turn around in Bass Coast Health’s (BCH) finances.
Kirrak House provides high level care for elderly and incapacitated patients. There are many people who live here for years, and many of these residents have little family support.
I became a regular attendee and volunteer for the Residents and Relatives group at Kirrak, in particular focussing on improving access to the outdoors, and the grounds.
The committee, residents and staff were delighted when in mid-2016, BCH was awarded a grant in excess of $260,000 to construct an outdoor area suited to the needs of the residents.
Despite Kirrak having been operating for around 15 years, the grounds have never been properly constructed. In 2010 a plan had been made to improve this area, and many generous donations of plants and materials were received.
Due to the total lack of maintenance, little is left of the work completed by volunteers. The grass is mown sometimes but no other work is completed on a regular basis.
The soil in the area is not conducive to growing lawn, and the few trees which have been planted there are struggling as it is constructed over an old gravel carpark.
The soil depth is minimal and the drainage ineffective due to the eroding embankments. It’s not a nice area for people to enjoy. I have personally pulled out many, many weeds, and know that other friends and family members of residents have done the same over many years.
In 2015 a large slab of concrete was placed across the front of the building, supposedly for emergency access. The sides of the slab were left barren and rubble strewn.
Along with members of my family and some other volunteers, I have dug, planted, mulched and weeded across the front of the buildings using donations, cuttings and plants purchased through fundraising efforts.
Although it’s not a wonderful garden it’s certainly a huge improvement on what was there.
When Mum moved into Kirrak her room overlooked thistles, weeds and building rubble. We were told not to do anything because there was a landscaping plan. That was in 2012.
At the rear, in the area which residents should be able to freely access in accordance with VicHealth recommendations there is on one side of the building another huge slab of concrete, with no shade, no wind breaks and weeds alongside.
This side of the building faces the afternoon sun so in summer shades need to be drawn for most of the day, contrary to VicHealth recommendations.
Added to this is a disused and weed riddled sandpit and another area which was excavated out and has not been used for years.
Just on 12 months ago a resident in a wheelchair fell into this area, fortunately not sustaining any major injuries. The reaction of management was to install orange plastic fencing and not allow residents outside. This temporary fencing is still in place 12 months later, now torn and falling down. The area is now in a shameful state of neglect, although in regular use.
There is a large well-constructed rotunda which was donated in part by local service clubs many years ago, for the use of the residents and their families for barbecues etc. This has instead been in use as a storage facility for outdated equipment for several years.
In 2015 I attended a meeting where we were told by a senior BCH staff member that gardens should not be built because of the fire risk they presented. Looking at the photographs provided, is the fire risk greater in the planted areas or the non-maintained places? Snakes were another excuse given for the lack of ground work.
So now I read that the landscaping which was funded 18 months ago has still not commenced and then in the Sentinel-Times of December 5 of the huge operating profit of BCH.
It makes me wonder where the grant money has been sitting and why the financial status of an organisation is of more importance to rectify than the living conditions of those who rely upon that organisation for their daily care.
Pauline McGregor, Cape Paterson.