New CEO poised to step in as facility becomes ‘envy of many’
The past five years have been a period of rapid development for Murroona Gardens as it has transformed it into a bright, colourful living space for Bowen's older residents.
Now there is set to be a changing of the guard as CEO Greg Pollard prepares to retire and new leader Ross Meier steps into his place to take the aged care facility into the next chapter.
Both Mr Pollard and Mr Meier have been part of Murroona Gardens for eight years, with Mr Pollard holding the position of CEO while Mr Meier has been treasurer on the volunteer-run board.
Five years ago the first plan was drawn up for a major refurbishment at the facility, which started out in 1964, with the third and final stage completed this year.
Mr Pollard said more than $14 million had been spent on improving amenities across the past few years, including creating 32 single ensuite rooms, renovating the wellness centre, building a cafe, major refurbishments to the Wattle Wing, establishing separate areas for families to meet with residents and creating outdoor areas to play bocce and lawn bowls.
The community-owned facility now boasts 104 licensed beds, 80 units, 120 staff, 20 home care clients and 25 community clients.
Mr Pollard describes the revamp as one of the highlights of his time at Murroona Gardens.
"The look of joy on people's faces when they moved from their shared room to their modern orchid and frangipani rooms, the look of delight will live with me forever," Mr Pollard said.
"We're incredibly proud of what we've got here."
Mr Pollard, who joined Murroona Gardens after spending 33 years with Westpac, said it had been a rewarding and interesting journey.
But it has not been without its challenges.
In 2016, Mr Pollard said Hillside Haven in Collinsville closed and the Murroona Gardens board decided they did not want to see residents sent all over Queensland.
Instead, they helped all seven residents who wanted to stay in the region.
"We jumped through hoops and converted staffrooms into resident rooms," Mr Pollard said.
"It was the next best outcome for them, while Bowen is only an hour away it was better than being relocated to Rockhampton or Cairns or whatever the outcome might be."
Just one year later, another challenge struck when Cyclone Debbie caused the first ever forced evacuation at the centre.
Mr Pollard said the facility had to make sure everyone had the clothes, medication, bedding and other essentials they needed.
The latest renovations included the creation of a central core in one of the new buildings that will allow staff and residents to shelter in place in the event of a cyclone.
Of course, this year brought an unprecedented challenge through COVID-19 and forced the facility into lockdown for a period, restricting family visits and necessitating screening for staff.
"When you're dealing with the most vulnerable members of the community you have to do those things," Mr Pollard said.
In overcoming those challenges, but also seeing all three stages of renovations through to conclusion, Mr Pollard said he and the board was very proud.
"We have a facility here that's the envy of many," Mr Pollard said.
"What has been achieved by this board and past boards, they need to be commended for their vision and their preparedness to see those three development stages through to fruition.
"If Bowen didn't have a facility like Murroona Gardens, family life would be disrupted in the extreme.
"Murroona Gardens makes a significant contribution to the local economy."
On Thursday, the baton will be handed over to new CEO Mr Meier.
He comes to the facility with experience from Queensland Country Bank but also community-mindedness demonstrated through his roles in various groups such as the Bowen Sporting Complex committee, Bowen Collinsville Enterprises and Bowen cricket.
Mr Meier said being part of the facility was "immensely rewarding".
"If you were going to be involved in a business where 100 per cent of your efforts come back to here, it's so rewarding," he said.
Mr Meier said the renovations at the facility were a chance to meet the changing expectations of the community and now the team would enter a period of consolidation to plan for the future.
This will include addressing the outcomes of the Royal Commission into Aged Care as well as a strategic plan that will set goals for the next five years.
"Some of the independent living units were built in the '60s, we intend to conduct an audit on the buildings to identify a maintenance program," Mr Meier said.
"It's a bit like painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge, you start at one end and by the time you get to the end you go back and start again."