Quake anniversary:Farewell to Radius St Ives

1 March 2012

February 22 marked not only the first anniversary of Christchurch’s most devastating quake but also a farewell party for the red-zoned Radius St Ives rest home, which is being forced to close.

Seven rest homes were lost through the February quake that also saw two wings of Radius St Ives majorly damaged, forcing 22 residents to be evacuated across the city and some out-of-town.

Sewerage was also cut off for 13 weeks to the riverside property that suffered major cracks in its lawn and access road. Despite the damage, the facility’s nurse manager Annette McGinlay and staff kept the facility open and functioning for up to 29 residents even after the site became red-zoned last year. With the entrance to the home from the green zone, McGinlay said Radius management had explored options to keep the home open. “But our new landlord is going to be the government and they don’t want us here.”

She said by the end of February, the home was down to 19 residents and 32 staff, as residents began to move out to other Radius facilities or other rest homes in the city.

She had been keen to keep as many as residents on as possible until February 22 to mark the anniversary with a rock-n-roll farewell party for residents and staff.

Earlier on the anniversary day, staff and residents watched the memorial service on television before staff took mobile residents by wheelchair and walking frame down to the neighbouring Avon River to join the citywide River of Flowers commemoration by throwing flowers off the bridge.

“They were flowers out of our garden, which will soon be going to rack and ruin,” McGinlay said.

She said most staff had got jobs at other Radius facilities or in other aged care facilities in the city and others had left the city or were leaving aged care.

McGinlay’s own home also has to be demolished, and after completing the closure of Radius St Ives, she hopes to take a holiday before starting a yet-to-be-confirmed new position.

She says getting the facility into a reasonable condition for residents and staff after the initial quake had been a long, slow process, which had been set back by the June quakes and then by the red zoning.

“But the residents have been fantastic,” McGinlay said.

She said after about the 7000th aftershock shook the home’s dining room and rattled the windows, a resident asked in alarm ‘what’s that?’ to which staff member calmed them by saying it was ‘just a little aftershock’. McGinlay said then to their amazement the resident replied, ‘really, do you get them here often?’

“So there is an advantage of short-term memory loss,” laughed McGinlay.