The Cottage turns 20

The Sister Francesca Healy Cottage (The Cottage) provides a welcome safe haven and supportive place where people experiencing homelessness or social isolation can prepare for medical treatment or recover from illness with the help of a dedicated team of specialists and carers.

Established in 1995, it’s the only facility of its kind in Australia and recently celebrated its 20th birthday. Past and present staff and supporters gathered to celebrate the contribution the Cottage makes to some of our community’s most marginalised and view the newly completed patient garden.

The Cottage is staffed 24 hours, 365 days a year. Care, provision of meals and assistance in completing activities of daily living (ADLs) is provided by personal carers, hospital medical staff and St Vincent’s At Home nursing staff. Referrals are made with various social, welfare, housing, health and support agencies.

Cottage Manager Byron Lazarides said it was impossible to thank everyone, as so many people have made such a valuable contribution to the Cottage over many year, but highlighted two who were integral in getting the unique service up and running.

“Sister Cathy Meese and Trish Dalton were pivotal in getting the Cottage up and running in the early days,” Byron says.

Theresa Swanborough and Sister Cathy Meese

Throughout 2013, 130 clients were admitted to The Cottage, with a total number of 163 admissions. The average length of stay was 7.8 days (range 2-59). 25 clients had more than one admission during the 2013 calendar year.

During the course of a Cottage admission, staff (Cottage nursing, personal care staff and other HARP staff associated with the patient journey engage with patients, in an inclusive and culturally sensitive manner, which seeks to enhance the patient experience and maximise opportunity for better health outcomes.

Cottage ManagerByron Lazarides (right) and patient

The Cottage is physically designed to feel like a home like environment. On arrival, clients are welcomed and introduced to others, settled into their rooms or invited to share a cuppa, before more formal orientation to the house takes place. Weekends see food as a vehicle for engagement, with staff cooking up eggs or porridge for a shared meal between clients. Engagement and inclusion are vital to the working and success of this model.

The Cottage has an extremely positive effect on many of the patients who come through its doors. St Vincent’s at Home nursing team and Cottage care staff regularly receive letters thanking them for the care and friendship they provide to people who find access to healthcare and acceptance to mainstream services an ongoing challenge.

Some kind words:

“To all of the extraordinary people at the Cottage. I know I am not worthless or hopeless. Your care, kindness and compassion have helped me realise I need to start over and create something better. Each and every one of you has played a part at this time.”

 “Dear staff at the Cottage, the nurses who visit and of course the guys form the hospital who bring the food – thank you for all of your care, support and services. You provided such a comforting and safe environment and helping me on the road to recovery (once again). P.S: I think you might be out of butter!”

 “Hi Byron, Shirley and all the staff and lovely care team at St Vincent’s. Love to say thank you for looking after me when I had a busted leg.”

 “To all the amazing staff at the Cottage… thank you, thank you, thank you. I was truly blessed to have landed here and you took the time to get to know me.”

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