Taking the decision to close Whanganui’s Nazareth Rest Home and Hospital was just as serious and difficult for the board to do as it was for the residents, their families and staff to hear.

It was the city’s last Catholic elderly care facility after the Sisters of Compassion closed their home and hospital in 2012.

The Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart New Zealand Trust Board and Mary MacKillop N.Z. Ltd announced this news on March 15 at meetings with staff first then residents and their families.

The news has been met with disbelief by the parish and wider community.

The parish’s Friday midday Mass was offered for the 61 staff who have abruptly lost their jobs and the 41 residents and their families having to search for another rest home.

The staff who have provided beautiful and high quality care to the residents have been assured that all terms of their employment contract will be honoured and counselling resources are being made available to them.

“We have told the residents and their families we are committed to making the transition to new accommodation as smooth as possible for residents. They have been assured that they have a home at Nazareth until a new home is found for them,” said Sandra Hunt, board chair of Mary MacKillop Care NZ Ltd.

After lengthy discussion and in-depth consideration, the board realised Nazareth had to shut.

The board was saddened that it couldn’t continue and was very mindful of the impact on everyone.

“While the building meets current standards, it will not be viable to continue future investments to ensure it remains compliant with legislation,” said local member of the sisters’ trust board, Sr Liz Hickey, RSJ.

Mary MacKillop Care acting chief executive Tineke Stokes sensed the  writing was on the wall and the closure didn’t surprise her.

“I knew the facility had quite a substantial amount of capital expenditure that would be needed to be spent on it going into the future. It’s very hard to remain sustainable in an environment that is weighed against some of the bigger players in aged care services,” she said.

Nazareth Rest Home was built and opened for the elderly sisters in 1982 next to Mt St Joseph on Hillside Terrace overlooking the Whanganui River towards the Parapara hills.

However some sisters needed specialist care and left vacant rooms when they were transferred to other facilities.

In 1987 the decision was made to open Nazareth to the wider community regardless of denomination, gender or race as a private rest home.