Blue Care Sunrise Beach reimagines residential aged care

Construction starts in July 2022 on our new residential aged care facility at Sunrise Beach, Noosa, for Blue Care Queensland. Project leader Pino Gentile was recently interviewed by Lauren Broomham for The Source Saturday, where he discussed the small household model of care and the impact of the pandemic on the design of aged care facilities. We thank Lauren for sharing this story.

Envisioning the future
Queensland Not For Profit Blue Care is taking the learnings of the Royal Commission and the COVID-19 pandemic to reimagine the future of residential care at its new $30 million Sunrise Beach development.

The provider has re-designed the 102-bed aged care facility outside of Noosa to accommodate both the small household model of care put forward by the Royal Commission and provide greater infection control measures in the wake of the pandemic.

Blue Care has had plans approved for this site since 2012, but sought an amendment to the approved plans in 2020 after the project was re-designed to reflect the move towards an integrated model of care.

Architecture firm ThomsonAdsett was brought on board to design a building which suited this new model and, in the process, increased the number of beds on site.

“A development approval was in place for this site for a conventionally planned residential aged care facility designed many years earlier however the Blue Care team were challenged by a number of factors relating to that design,” said ThomsonAdsett Principal, Pino Gentile. “The original design did not lend itself to their new model of care and financially the project wasn’t stacking up.”

Creating both community and privacy

The new design features a cluster of two-storey buildings around a series of courtyards which are connected by secure links and covered walkways which take advantage of the sub-tropical climate.

“This approach has allowed the building to look and feel more like the hotels and resorts in nearby Noosa where landscaping is integral to the design,” said Pino. “When you arrive at the Sunrise facility, you enter into a public and active courtyard. This is the town square of the site and will be used for a variety of resident activities. This space connects to the large multipurpose room, the chapel, the café and lounge area. Beyond this zone, you then enter the more private parts of the site which is where you access the homes of the residents.”

Residents will live in groups of eight or nine, each with their own living, dining, accessible kitchen and terrace areas under the small household model.

“It tied in perfectly with the outcomes they were wanting and the model of care they have adopted for their organisation,” added Pino. “Allowing residents to live their best life possible underpins Blue Care’s care philosophy.”

Using design to maximise workforce efficiency

Importantly, the re-design has also increased the number of beds from 96 to 102 – with staff allocated across six units of 17 beds – which will maximise the efficiency of the site.

“Small house models are seen to be the epitome of achieving person-centred care for residents and there are many documented benefits for residents who live in these small house groupings,” explained Pino. “We must however be cognisant that planning of these facilities must still be efficient for staffing.”

The new design also builds in greater safeguards for infection control, including a vestibule outside the front door to each house for handwashing, PPE and disposal bins. There are also separate clean and dirty paths of travel for each home.

“The early data which came out of COVID in aged care facilities highlighted the risk of dirty linen being a source of infection spread so a meticulous process of planning staffing movements was undertaken and factored into the planning in and around the entire site,” said Pino.

“For Blue Care Sunrise, the process of redesign, of dealing with COVID and ultimately to go to market at a time when there are many uncertainties in the construction industry has shown the determination of the Blue Care team to maintain their commitment to providing an environment where the elders of Queensland can live with dignity and respect and live their best lives possible.”

This article originally appeared in The Source Saturday, the premium digital magazine for aged care and retirement living executives.