Covid-19:Two big retirement villages boost staff wages during lockdown

Ryman Healthcare has boosted staff wages $2 an hour during lockdown and Summerset has boosted then $3 an hour to thank staff for looking after thousands of residents in retirement villages.
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Ryman Healthcare has boosted staff wages $2 an hour during lockdown and Summerset has boosted then $3 an hour to thank staff for looking after thousands of residents in retirement villages.

Two of the country’s largest retirement villages have boosted staff pay during lockdown.

Ryman Healthcare, the largest, has increased staff pay by $2 an hour and Summerset Group has raised wages by $3 an hour during lockdown.

Both say it is to thank staff who are caring for thousands of residents each day. Ryman has 12,750 residents and Summerset 6600.

The country’s big retirement villages have closed their doors to visitors since lockdown at alert level 4 started on August 17.

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* Ryman Healthcare implements no-visitors policy across five Wellington villages in response to Covid
* Covid-19: Rest homes and retirement villages halt visits to vulnerable elderly in short, sharp lockdown

Ryman and Summerset are saliva-testing some staff for Covid-19 as an extra measure of precaution.
Supplied/Supplied
Ryman and Summerset are saliva-testing some staff for Covid-19 as an extra measure of precaution.

The only visitors who are being allowed in are those visiting residents in palliative and end of life care, and the visit must be arranged with management beforehand.

Communal activities and gatherings and mingling of residents have been placed on hold, the retirement villages websites show. Relatives were asked to drop any essential items, like food, at their gates.

Both Ryman and Summerset are saliva testing some staff members as an extra measure of precaution this lockdown.

Ryman said full infection control procedures were in place, staff were wearing face shields and N95 masks and caring for residents in bubbles.

It had good experience from more than 200 days in lockdown in Victoria about the best precautions, and the double reassurance of N95 masks and face shields had worked well.

Ryman had not had a case of Covid-19 in Victoria.

At its villages 87 per cent of residents and 83 per cent of staff had been vaccinated. That was more than 32,000 vaccinations delivered.

Zoom calls and activities programmes continued within the bubbles to keep everyone entertained.

Since April 2020 taking part in its vaccination programme had been a requirement in its employment agreements, Ryman said.

Communal gatherings at retirement villages are on hold over lockdown.
Supplied
Communal gatherings at retirement villages are on hold over lockdown.

Summerset said it was postponing all admissions.

Separated team rosters, the use of face masks and PPE (personal protective equipment) plus additional cleaning protocols had been initiated when the country went into lockdown.

More than 80 per cent of both its aged care residents and care staff had been fully vaccinated, receiving both doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Those residents living independently made their own vaccination arrangements.

Summerset chief executive Scott Scoullar said the extra $3 an hour, up from $2 in last year’s lockdowns, was to thank frontline staff and not a measure to try and retain them.

Frontline staff were the vast majority of staff, who were looking after residents in a variety of ways, from people manning the gates, delivering food to independent-living residents, helping them with their technology, and staff working in the care centres, he said.

In Auckland most care staff were wearing N95 masks while those in other parts of the country were wearing traditional masks. Non-vaccinated staff were wearing full PPE gear, Scoullar said.

Summerset had decided two weeks before lockdown to have all care staff, who looked after the most vulnerable residents, wear masks. The company could see the surging of cases in Australia and risk to New Zealand’s border.

Some staff members in Summerset’s Auckland villages were being saliva tested with their consent as an extra layer of assurance for residents and staff.

Summerset had had no Covid cases in its villages.