Tearful return to Patricia Hinchey Centre
Published in The Ararat Advocate, Ararat's local weekly newspaper published by West Vic News Pty Ltd.
Tears welled up in Graeme Bailey’s eyes last week when Jacinta Harman, manager of the Patricia Hinchey Centre, rang to inform him that the service would be reopening this week.
Mr Bailey was delighted to return on Monday thanks to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, and he wasn’t the only one with a smile from ear-to-ear.
Staff at the local service have been staying connected with their clients in new ways, since they were shut down ten weeks ago.
Ms Harman said the team sat down, in the beginning, to devise a plan so they could continue to provide services for their people.
“We came up with a plan to go out and deliver the activities, conduct welfare checks and do essential shopping,” she said.
“Mental health played a big part in this because they all struggled with the virus, they were scared. That friendly face visiting every day was just amazing.”
Mr Bailey has been attending the centre since November last year and said everyone has been staying in touch by writing letters, which has been great, but not the same as face to face conversations.
“When we all got here this morning, the whole place lit up. We've been isolated for so long, not being able to see one another. This place has become a second home to me and it’s great to be back,” he said.
Staff spent the first day back educating clients about the restrictions and social distancing. Clients and staff are very close so it has been hard to refrain the cuddles and kisses on return.
“It was very rewarding, ringing some of our people to say that we're back open and just to hear the happy delight in their voices. It's been a long couple of months,” she said.
Clients are now referring back to basics to help fight the spread of the virus and look after each other’s health.
“We had the discussion today about how we've had to take a step back. Basic stuff that we all learned as kids has been reinforced to us,” Mr Bailey said.
Teresa York also attends the centre and said that the last ten weeks have been hard and lonely.
“This place is a sanctuary for us, we love coming here. A few of us were told we were going to be able to come back here and we were practically in tears,” she said.
The centre is allowed 20 people each day - including staff - but they will also continue at-home welfare checks until all clients are welcomed back as normal.