Aged care provider IRT Group is ending the year with a multi-million-dollar loss in the face of deep cuts and challenges due to the pandemic.

Key points:

  • The group’s annual loss of over $10 million is half that of the previous year
  • IRT Tarrawanna lost five residents in the latest outbreak of COVID-19
  • A former aged care worker left the industry due to the difficulty in losing residents

The group, which operates centres in NSW, the ACT and Queensland, recorded an underlying operating loss of $10.6 million, an improvement on the $20 million deficit from last year.

“We are going in the right direction and we’ll continue to do so,” chief executive Patrick Reid said.

“One of the changes I made as CEO was to give the real status of the company in terms of the difficulties and opportunities that we may face.”

A sign out the front of the IRT's Tarrawanna Aged Care Centre

A second man in his 90s has died after contracting COVID at the centre. (Supplied: IRT)

Mr Reid credited the latest deficit to a number of increased costs such as masks, PPE and infection-control processes.

It was difficult to lock down care centres and restrict visitation of residents, he added.

“Probably the biggest challenge is that a lot of people throughout the pandemic have chosen to stay home, so they may have normally transferred to aged care in our centres but have chosen to stay at home because of restrictions instead.”

Tarrawanna outbreak

The organisation’s annual general meeting also addressed recent challenges it faced dealing with the COVID outbreak at its Tarrawanna centre in North Wollongong.

Patrick Reid holds an electronic tablet outside under some trees.

Patrick Reid expects the organisation to stay resilient against the pandemic.(ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)

The outbreak saw 26 residents and six employees test positive; five residents have died.

The impact of the deaths had been felt strongly by staff members, he added.

“We grow very close to our residents and are often their de facto family when their family couldn’t come in through the restrictions, so to lose them is difficult.”

‘I often cried at work’

Antonio Malevitsis, a former aged care worker based in Nowra, said he felt obligated to temporarily leave the industry due to the impact it had on his mental health.

“It was heartbreaking for me to see residents get frail more than ever before and they leave us and it’s very hard to cope.”

Peter Nicholas holds his walking stick towards the camera while Antonio Malevitsis puts his arm around him.

The late Peter Nicholas with his friend and aged care worker Antonio Malevitsis.(Supplied: TAFE NSW)

Mr Malevitsis spent the majority of this year working at the Uniting Osbourne aged care service.

“I often cried in the middle of my shift, and I had to go to the toilet and wipe my face because it was very hard to see people leaving.”

He said he grew close to the residents, given they were so often cut off from their families.

“They feel loneliness and abandoned from their families, so they become your family and I think the staff contribute a lot by giving extra love to residents who are especially distressed.

Despite the tragic losses, Mr Reid said the Tarrawanna centre had passed the worst of the outbreak due to strong vaccination rates among staff, residents and the community.

“It means that we are able to open up and offer visitation again, so we’re really pleased to see that loved ones are coming back in to see their friends and family.”

Aged care provider halves annual loss but pandemic takes toll on staff
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