Torbay is a retirement village and aged care provider that has had a commitment to excellence since 1977. Today, Torbay provides residential aged care through their two locations in Hervey Bay – Torbay Retirement Village in Torquay, and Parklands Retirement Haven in Urangan.
The company’s original location, known as Torbay-Torquay, provides aged care services to residents with moderate care needs through to those with more complex care needs. Their second village, known as Torbay-Parklands, is newly established, and at this stage they offer only low and high care. When completed, it will have a full range of care services. At both facilities, care is provided by qualified and dedicated staff that strives to personalise the provision of care to meet resident needs.
Torbay–Torquay consists of 165 aged care places and 159 independent living units (‘villas’). Torbay–Parklands currently consists of 48 aged care places and 14 independent living units. Torbay–Parklands, when completed, will have 150 aged care places and 130 independent living units.
CEO Philip Parry, who has a background in accounting, spent a couple of years on the board before joining the company in 1989 as General Manager. “I really wanted to do something with people, do something for people and do something to create the future,” Parry says. “Torbay-Torquay was an ideal place to do all that. When I joined the organisation, it was only a low care facility.”
The organisation wanted to move into high care. In the 1980s, residents requiring high care had to leave Torbay to receive high care at another facility four or five kilometers away. “We always had that goal to build a nursing home, so the people could stay here right until the end. We didn’t achieve that until early 2000 when we built our first nursing wing,” Parry says.
Since then, Torbay, and the aged care industry, has changed considerably. In the early days, aged care facilities were extremely easy to run. The amount of funding for the year was known at the beginning of the year. “You knew what annual income you would have. It was only a matter of organising how you spent the money over the year,” Parry explains. “It has changed now, but it’s a good change.”
In the past, they had waiting lists of over 100 people. Now they run at about 96 per cent occupancy so they’re always looking for that next person to come. This has forced them to improve their service to residents. “In the early days, it was ‘take it or leave it’ – if they didn’t take it the one behind them on the wait list would,” he explains. “Whereas now we’re having to market ourselves. We have to concentrate on providing what people want and can afford. I think that’s an exciting change.”
In general, residents have options now in the way their services are provided, whereas in the past they didn’t. “It was just take it or leave it,” Parry reiterates. In those days they had 44 independent living units and a 10-year queue for the villas. What residents got was a two-bedroom unit with a single lockup garage. All the villas were about 100 square-meters in size.
The market has since changed and Torbay went into one-bedroom units, three-bedroom units, double garages and started providing air conditioning to the villas. “The-villas have continued to get larger and larger in size. Instead of it just being a square box, you now have to design a home, provide extensive communual facilities and make the package attractive to the residents,” Parry says.
What makes Torbay unique is what they do for their residents. At an organisational level, they believe in truly living life – both in the aged care facility and the independent living units. It’s about living, Parry says, rather than just existing or just providing the accommodation. “We encourage the residents to treat this as their home. The staff are here to assist the residents live the way they want to live, rather than just providing hotel services.”
Within their two facilities, they have extensive activity programs residents can participate in. The Residents Committee alone organizes over 50 various events and activities for residents.
For example, their most recent garage sale – which is held three times a year – raised $11,000, money which goes back into the facility. Their coffee shop makes about $7,000 or $8,000 a year. “Quite often it’s providing equipment for the aged care facility. These garage sales go over two days with 40 to 50 residents involved in organising it. They really benefit from participating in them,” he says.
The company currently employs about 240 people, which includes those working in the villas and their catering and construction divisions.
Like other aged care facilities, however, Torbay has a difficult time attracting and retaining staff. Parry finds that a lot of people from the area are going to work in the mines. “The wages in this area are low, compared to the acute care sector. A lot of people get attracted to wages in the acute sector or mining areas,” Parry says.
The company often loses good staff because their partners find getting work in the area difficult, Parry says. “We do find a high turnover in the personal care area and domestic staff. We had also been experiencing problems with getting enough registered nurses.”
To combat this challenge, the organisation has attracted several Nepalese and Indian nurses that upgraded their skills to Australian standards and took graduate courses at the University of Southern Queensland in Hervey Bay. “They came and worked for us while attending university here. We’re now sponsoring them for citizenship,” Parry explains. “They have to stay with us for two years but we are hoping that they choose to stay longer.”
Even though they have difficulty in retaining staff, a number of their employees have been with the organisation for many years. Their director of care has been there for 18 years, for example. The clinical care co-coordinator and catering manager have both been there for 14 years. “We have a lot of senior staff that are very stable. Quite a few of the staff have been with us for in excess of 10 years,” Parry says. “We have excellent workers, excellent staff. They know the policies and procedures and they follow it to a tee – they are very caring and well accepted by the residents.”
As for what’s looming on the horizon for Torbay, the company has an extension of the Parklands facility starting in June. It is expected to be finished by Christmas. They’re also going to build a new $2.5 million administration centre at the Torbay facility. In addition to those projects, they were awarded a tender to upgrade Gracehaven aged care facility in Bundaberg – a $3 million project that will take 45 weeks to complete. “We are also tendering on a few other regional projects as well,” Parry says. Looking to the long-term future, Parry wants Torbay Retirement Village to become a much larger organisation than it is now – he’d like to see them running more aged care facilities. One of the challenges in the aged care industry is to stay viable, while also experiencing growth. He has concerns about the current government policy of keeping people in the own homes longer. He sees too many elderly people who are “prisoners in solitary confinement” in their suburban homes. Most of these people stay there through ignorance of what is available in a modern, well run aged care facility.
“The Government are happy to promote this misconception as they think it saves them money,” Parry says.
These low care people would lead a better and more enjoyable lifestyle in a modern aged care facility and would help improve the quality of life for the current high care residents at a lower cost to the Government. “I have seen it work in the past and seen the benefits to both high and low care residents,” says Parry.
“It really is about the residents and their lifestyle,” he adds. “I think we do that reasonably well and I would like to see more people benefit from our care.”