13 October 2023

IRT residents lose homes to make way for Woonona site redevelopment

| Jen White
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Aerial picture of IRT Woonona.

IRT is planning to wind back some services at its Woonona site as part of a redevelopment. Photo: IRT.

About 100 residents at IRT Woonona will have to find new homes before buildings are demolished to make way for a redevelopment at the aged care site.

The development due for late next year will also result in the loss of some aged care beds.

IRT Group CEO Patrick Reid says IRT’s future vision for seniors living and aged care moves to redefine the standard model of nursing homes and retirement villages that are often separated from the surrounding community.

“Our vision for IRT Woonona and other sites in our portfolio, is to deliver more living space, wellbeing and lifestyle opportunities that will support older people through all stages of ageing,” he said.

READ ALSO Medical ‘flying squad’ treats aged care residents in their homes, avoiding trips to ED

Mr Reid said IRT conducted a property review of the site, as it did regularly on all of its properties to ensure they were fit for purpose and aligned with the organisation’s strategic direction.

He said the review of the site, which was built in the mid to late 1970s, found some of the buildings were in significant need of improvement.

“After careful consideration we are choosing to wind down the delivery of services in two areas of the site in preparation for redevelopment, which will require the demolition of the buildings known as Ribbonwood and Blueberry Ash.”

The two buildings offer a range of independent living and semi-independent living, up to dementia support.

Mr Reid said residents would not need to leave their homes until mid to late next year.

IRT CEO Patrick Reid.

IRT Group CEO Patrick Reid said the organisation would help displaced residents find new homes before buildings are demolished next year. Photo: IRT.

“We understand that a change at this stage in our residents’ lives can cause some anxiety and it is for this reason that we do not wish to rush our residents to make a decision,” he said.

IRT has started meeting with residents and their representatives individually to understand their personal needs and preferences, to help them find accommodation at other sites, including aged care centres and retirement villages.

Aged care services will continue to be provided in the remaining, newer building of IRT Woonona known as Flametree, which has 102 beds, and the retirement village units known as Camellia Lodge will also continue operating as normal.

READ ALSO IRT moves into Marco Polo after taking over the ill-fated aged care facilities

“There will be an initial drop in the overall number of aged care beds available in the area, [but] the new site will cater to the future needs and expectations of even more people, delivering services for all stages of ageing,” Mr Reid said.

“There is a growing preference among older Australians to stay longer in their own homes.

“IRT wants to support this desire by delivering a model that offers age-appropriate accommodation that is surrounded by a range of support services including all levels of home care.

“So rather than replacing Ribbonwood with another aged care building, we will be proposing to develop a community that enables people to live independently for longer and supports them through all stages of ageing.”

IRT has submitted a development application (DA) for demolition work to Wollongong Council and will continue working on the master plan for the site.

“When the work by our designers and architects is finalised, these plans will require submission in the form of a major development application to Wollongong City Council,” Mr Reid said.

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