The Freemasons’ Homes of Southern Tasmania is a leading provider of aged care services in Tasmania. Their residential care facilities provide quality care, accommodation and services to 164 residents who enjoy independence, security, community and a quality lifestyle in contemporary accommodation.
Founded in 1951, the Freemasons’ Homes of Southern Tasmania was originally established to celebrate the end of the Second World War. To commemorate the end of the war, it was suggested that a suitable memorial, a Masonic Peace Memorial, be erected. This idea was pursued by the various organisations within Freemasonry, and a report adopted by the Grand Lodge of Tasmania led to the establishment of the provisional committee of 1945-46 Masters. After numerous meetings, it was decided that homes for aged care should be built.
After receiving funding from the Freemasons in Southern Tasmania and investigating numerous sites in the greater Hobart area, the current Lindisfarne site was selected. This site, comprising of more than five acres, was purchased in 1951 – and the Freemasons’ Homes of Southern Tasmania was created.
Greg Burgess took on the CEO role at Freemasons’ Homes of Southern Tasmania in December 2001, and the intervening years have not seen his passion for the organisation wane. Prior to joining, he had a 25-year career in local government, where – in the later years – the council he was managing also managed a small rural aged care facility. “That really got me interested in aged care, and when the opportunity arose to apply for the position here, I jumped on it,” he says.
When Burgess first came aboard the Freemasons’ Homes, the group had only recently introduced their second facility – Bowditch Hostel at Wellington Road, Lindisfarne. At that time, Bowditch only catered for 25 residents. Today, it accommodates 34 residents, as well as three two-bedroom independent living units.
The Freemasons’ Homes main facility at Ballawinne Road, Lindisfarne, had 124 beds and was “really tired, really dated,” when he came aboard, Burgess says. Many of the rooms were shared, and without en-suites. In the years since, they have been completely redeveloped – making for 131 private rooms with en-suites. The number of independent living units surrounding the facility also grew from a total of 17 to 42. Overseeing that evolution has really energised Burgess, and he is excited to see it continue.
Warm and friendly
“The place is very warm and friendly,” Burgess says, describing the feedback Freemasons’ Homes has consistently received. “People seek us out to have their loved ones that need care reside at this facility, and we’re very proud of that. We have a very strong reputation in the community, and we aim to maintain that.”
The staff at Freemasons’ Homes of Southern Tasmania is also regarded highly by the community. They employ 180 permanent and part-time staff members between their facilities, and Burgess says that management treats them the way they want to be treated themselves – “with honesty and with fairness.”
The management of Freemasons’ Homes also encourage their staff to develop their skills, and are very flexible in their employment arrangements. They realize there has to be a life-work balance, and make every effort to accommodate staff when developing rosters and arranging their work plans. “We have a very good relationship with staff, and a good working harmony within the organisation,” Burgess says.
When introducing people into that harmonious culture, the Freemasons’ Homes of Southern Tasmania look for people with commitment. They want staff members who are committed to helping the frail aged, and are ready and willing to “take that extra step, or go that extra mile.”
“That’s something we find with many of our staff. They’re not clock watchers,” Burgess says. “They often give extra time, and they often come back and volunteer in some capacity once or twice a month in various activities or various programs we may have running to support our residents.”
“It’s that genuine commitment to wanting to help people – that’s what we look for,” he adds. “It’s people who have a genuine desire to make things better for those that are a little less fortunate than themselves.”
The Freemasons’ Homes of Southern Tasmania recently received a national Better Practice Award from ACSAA – one of only three organisations selected from Tasmania. The award was for a “Dementia Fun and Games Program” they introduced in combination with eight other aged care organisations in southern Tasmania. They initially received a government grant to get the program up and running, but it has been such a success that they have agreed to continue the program and fund it themselves.
The Games are a series of competitions the participating facilities organise for their residents to travel to and participate in. “It’s been a huge success, and a lot of new friendships have been made,” Burgess says. “A lot of people have been made very happy by participating in the program.”
Facing challenges head-on
One of the chief challenges across the entire aged care industry is the rising expectations of residents, and particularly the children of residents. The Freemasons Homes of Southern Tasmania have not been immune from that challenge, but they have faced it head-on. “We don’t have too many issues,” Burgess says. “We invite family members to visit our facility, to inspect the rooms, and we enjoy receiving feedback on what they found acceptable and what was below their expectations. In future developments we have for the facility, we can be mindful of that feedback.”
“On the whole, however, it’s the resident that needs to be comfortable, and needs to be satisfied,” he adds. “I’m pleased to say that’s very much the case in this organisation. The residents are extremely satisfied with the services that are provided, and the accommodations they reside in.”
To increase the quality of those already exceptional services and accommodation, the Aged Care Foundation of Freemasons’ Homes of Southern Tasmania was created in 2009. The purpose of the Foundation is to enhance the quality of life for residents of the nursing home and Bowditch hostel. “It was created to provide another avenue of promoting the home, and attracting financial support from philanthropists and government grants,” Burgess explains.
The Foundation is run by a volunteer board that works very hard, and gives freely of their time to benefit the residents. They raised the funds to purchase a large TV and a large bus, and continuously subsidise the cost of residents’ outings. They also helped fund an upgrade of the Freemasons Homes’ marketing campaign, and their website redesign.
“We’re very pleased with the efforts the Foundation has gone to, and the results they have achieved,” Burgess says. “They continue to provide support for residents and for the organisation.”
Recently, the Freemasons’ Homes of Southern Tasmania acquired a motel whose property borders their nursing home. They are currently having a master plan developed by their architects that will see the home expanded in 2014. In the meantime, they are leasing the motel for operations by the previous owner. “That’s a big project that will be undertaken over the next couple of years,” Burgess says.
Freemasons’ Homes will also be seeking to stay at the cutting edge of technology, which is where they’ve been for many years now. “We have electronic care planning, we have electronic medication administration systems, and we just installed a completely new financial, HR, and maintenance software system,” Burgess says. “Technology is something we continually monitor, and we feel that we’re very much at the forefront of it as far as the aged care industry is concerned.”
In the long-term, Burgess’ vision for the Freemasons’ Homes of Southern Tasmania is to continue to evolve and grow in place. They are committed to the Lindisfarne area, and committed to improving the services and facilities they offer to it. “I want to see us continue to grow and develop, and continue to provide excellent quality care for the frail aged,” he concludes.