Catastrophic bushfires, savage storms and a global pandemic have contributed to IRT Group reporting a $20 million loss.
But the not-for-profit retirement living and aged care provider says it is not going to stop spending on more frontline staff to better care for its residents during COVID-19 and be fire prepared for summer.
Speaking after the Annual General Meeting on Thursday chief executive Patrick Reid described 2020 as the most challenging year in IRT's 51-year history.
IRT operates 31 retirement villages, 21 aged care centres and five home care regions in NSW, South East Queensland and the ACT that provide accommodation and/or care to more than 9000 residents and customers.
Many facilities are located in areas that were severely impacted by bushfires, which in January threatened seven retirement villages and seven aged care centres.
"The South Coast and Far South Coast was primarily affected and we had some fires up on the Sunshine Coast too," Mr Reid said.
"We had to evacuate the residents at IRT Dalmeny. But IRT's 2800 employees and almost 600 volunteers rose to the challenge, with courage, stamina and an unbeatable team spirit to prioritise the safety and well-being of our residents and customers.
"Our frontline employees demonstrated tremendous bravery and selflessness to keep our residents and customers safe when many of their own homes and families were under threat."
That was followed by the COVID-19 pandemic and Mr Reid said everyone at IRT have been focused on doing everything they can to keep people safe.
During 2020 there have been no outbreaks of the coronavirus at any IRT retirement villages or aged care centres.
But the difficult operating environment has resulted in a $20 million underlying loss for the financial year.
Mr Reid said that reflected the costs of managing the bush fires and the pandemic.
He said IRT increased the size of its front line workforce to better care for people during COVID-19.
"We staffed up to what we call a pandemic or infection level which means we actually have more staff on."
"As a community owned provider we look after some of Australia's most vulnerable people. The staff on the front line are heroes. They have been absolutely tremendous.
"Frontline staff through the fires showed immense courage, stamina and selflessness. And through Covid they have shown enormous resilience.
"With visiting restrictions they became the family for a lot of people. It has been tough on everybody. Including the residents and next of kin who have been amazing given the stresses of Covid and the fact their loved ones had to be isolated for everybody's safety."
Mr Reid said employee numbers have reduced at head office where there has been pay cuts and pay freezes to ensure the front line is adequately resourced.
IRT has reduced capital expenditure for the next financial year by 50 per cent, deferred major property development projects, and identified initiatives to make the organisation stronger and sustainable.
"We made a lot of changes off the back of fires and COVID with the protection of staff and residents being top of mind," he said.
"We will continue to spend where we need to which is why cap-ex has been targeted towards fire preparedness to make sure we are ready for this fire season."
Mr Reid still managed to complete Stage 1 of the Henry Brooks Estate at IRT Kanahooka retirement village, with the first residents moving in during September. It also moved forward with plans to build Jasmine Grove as a new collaborative housing approach designed for women over 55 living on their own. Jasmine Grove will be incorporated in Stage 2 of Henry Brooks Estate.
During 2020 IRT also secured two years of government funding for Booraja, a pilot project providing culturally appropriate home care services to South Coast Indigenous people.
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