Ryman’s anti-pandemic Melbourne measures: Victorian villages on high alert

Ryman Healthcare has no Covid-19 cases in its five retirement villages in Victoria, the Australian state suffering a renewed outbreak with more than 50 cases and some in aged-care facilities.

A Ryman spokesman said today hospitals in two of the NZX-listed company’s big Melbourne villages were shut before the state restrictions and no cases had been reported from staff or residents within.

Ryman has 12,500 residents here and in Australia, cared for by 6100 staff.

Last year, the company said it had spent $50 million on its pandemic response to protect residents and staff and no Covid cases were reported among 12,000 residents and 6100 staff.

The company has 900 elderly people in its five Victorian properties and is building and planning many more.

Last Thursday, it ushered in new restrictions at Nelly Melba and Weary Dunlop: people would only be let in and out to get food and essentials, for essential work, for care and caregiving, to exercise for up to two hours with one other or to get vaccinated.

“We closed our two aged care centres at Weary Dunlop and Nellie Melba in Melbourne about a week before the state government announced the current lockdown restrictions,” the Ryman spokesman said.

“At that time we closed all areas of all five of our operational villages in line with those restrictions. We had not stopped screening all visitors for Covid-19 risk since we began doing that early last year, but have increased mask-wearing and other infection control protocols in response to the heightened risk,” he said.

It has offered free accommodation at villages to staff living in a high infection risk home. This could be staff who live with a worker from another aged care facility.

Security checkpoints are at Weary Dunlop and Nellie Melba to manage deliveries and screen those trying to get in or out.

Supermarkets are common sources of infection so residents are being encouraged to order online and get food dropped off by a business or by family.

At Charles Brownlow and Ocean Grove, groceries can be left outside the front door of a resident’s villa for contactless delivery. At John Flynn village in Burwood East, people are being asked to call ahead to reception and staff collect the delivery.

“To help keep residents comfortable and entertained, we’ll be ramping up many of the same services, such as happy hour in a bag, you enjoyed during last year’s lockdowns,” the business said.

Many residents are now expert users of video calling services like Zoom to keep in touch with loved ones, but if you need any support with this please contact village reception.

Ryman has bought a new site in Melbourne and sold one there as well.

It has 12 new villages under construction here and in Australia. Across the Tasman, building work is on at Melbourne’s Nellie Melba, John Flynn and Aberfeldie and outside Melbourne at Highton in Geelong and near the coast at Ocean Grove south of Geelong.

Ryman’s Victoria land bank is Melbourne’s Highett, Ringwood East and Essendon and Mt Eliza and Mt Martha outside the city.

On May 21, Ryman said it had made a full-year underlying profit of $224.4m and had total assets of $9.1b. Chief executive Gordon MacLeod plans to leave, although who will replace him and when he will is undecided.

An international CEO hunt is on.

Last August, the Herald reported how two Melbourne retirement villages were in lockdown for the past month and its construction sites silent after Victoria ushered in tough anti-pandemic measures.

Shares have slid from $17 last January. Ryman intends to have a significant portion of its assets in Australia as it expands out of this country.

Shares are trading on the NZX around $13.11, up 8 per cent annually, giving the company a $6.5b market cap.

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