Outgoing CEO Jenny Apps and new CEO Graeme Sloane. Photo: Christopher Tan.

Although Covid has been a negative experience for many it has certainly been a blessing in disguise for the management board at Adina Care Cootamundra (ACC) over the past year.

When Covid kicked in early 2020 and an abrupt resignation of the then Chief Executive Officer of ACC, up stepped Jennifer Apps. Outgoing CEO Apps had previously retired from the industry in 2016 after four decades in the health system, and was ready to focus on her family as well as travelling and spending sometime overseas.

Then in 2018 she was approached by the board members of ACC, which is made up of local volunteers, and asked if she would come onboard to assist in the clinical side of things.

As her father was previously a resident before passing away and her mum still being in care there, Jen felt the need to help ACC.

Last year following the absence of a CEO, she decided to act quickly and agreed to fill in the CEO role for seven weeks, until a replacement is found as her international travel plans were abolished anyways.

Towards the end of that period Jen realised the amount of stress and instability on both the board and community if she had just left just shy of two months, so she decided to stay on until June 30, 2021 to provide the board ample time to thoroughly recruit a new CEO.

This was also the same period Adina Care Cootamundra was renamed from the previous ‘Cootamundra Nursing Home’.

“If you had ask me 20 years ago whether I would be working in aged care, I would’ve ruled it out,” outgoing CEO Apps said.

“But I have loved my time here at Adina Care Cootamundra and it has honestly been a pleasure.”

Late last month the Times caught up with both Jen and incoming CEO Graeme Sloane during his first day at the office as the pair were part of a week-long process in handing over.

Both Jen and Graeme started their careers within the same era and met some 20 years ago in the public system, with the pair joking they “go a fair way back”.

With the move, Mr Sloane is relocating family to Cootamundra but already had connections with the area as his grandmother was born in Illabo.

Graeme Sloane began his career in 1979 working in general nursing, and since then has worked many years in acute care with the advent of information technology.

A major aspect to his craft is helping health organisations adopt newer and different IT systems, to adapt and utilise these tools to better deliver health services.

Graeme moved to Wagga Wagga in 1989 as Director of Nursing and then moved forward in working within a number of different roles.

During the 2000s he worked on electronic medical records and accomplished work with NSW Health assisting with rolling out their electronic records.

Similarly, he did this line of work for Queensland Health. More recently CEO Sloane embarked onto the international stage in the United Arab Emirates and helped the Dubai Health Authority roll out their electronic records, which he described as a good challenge considering the population and the culture hugely differs from the western world.

Stepping into his new role at ACC, CEO Sloane is hoping to bridge the organisation closely with new standards, when they do roll out.

“We know that change is going to come because there will be new standards,” he said.

“This includes new standards of reporting and the organisation will need to adapt and change to meet those standards.

“In saying that, ACC will not need to make many changes as it has already been in good hands. The changes we will have to make in the future, will not be as dramatic as other organisations.”

They also discussed the culture of Adina Care and care provided to residents, as well as how this is to be continued.

“The first thing I will do is sit down and meet with staff, residents and the board. I will be listening to understand their views of what the future might hold,” CEO Sloane said.

“The focus is and will always continue to make sure we provide excellent care to the residents. This includes supporting our staff and various other teams to deliver this care.”

CEO Sloane described the handing over process as “passing the baton over”, that continuing the strong relationships established between management and residents is so important.

In Jen’s second shot at retirement, she said there are plans to travel around Australia and fulfil caravanning as well as visiting family.

Following that spell she is looking to stay connected with the ACC community, possibly with the Auxiliary.

However, one of her passions is palliative care and she will continue to be involved with the local multidisciplinary team, a group she’s coordinated since 2019.

Jen’s career began in 1976 when she started her nurses training at Mercy Hospital in Young, then finished and became a registered nurse in 1979.

She worked part-time as she soon had a family of her own.

In 1989 when Cootamundra welcomed a new Director of Nursing, Jen returned to Coota to work but was soon sent away on a 12-month study to focus on paediatrics, then again to university to complete a Bachelor of Nursing.

Since that period she became the Nursing Unit Manager at the Cootamundra Hospital before completing her midwifery in Sydney.

When she had accomplished that, a vacancy became available at the Coota Hospital for a Facility Manager, which is where Jen spent most of her career between the years of 2002 then [first] retirement in 2016.

Since outgoing CEO App’s time in her role, she helped raise more than $5,000 at a fundraiser for the centre’s second patient-lifter, be part of grand opening of the Community Palliative Care Unit, installed stronger surveillance at the facility, recruited a number of registered nurses, organised new look uniforms as well as adding new paint and wifi at the Coota centre.

A physiotherapy room was also added during her time and this was transformed from a previous under-utilised lounge room.

Christopher Tan