Joy Hoy isn’t just taking the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for herself; she’s looking out for her fellow residents at Koorooman House in Leongatha.
Mrs Hoy, who will turn 89 this year, is today among the first residents in Gippsland Southern Health Service’s public aged care facilities to receive the vaccine.
Mrs Hoy was one of the first women councillors for the former Shire of Woorayl in the 1980s and she’s happy to be taking a leading role in the vaccination program.
“I’m not doing it for me; I’m here with a lot of frail, elderly people and I think it would be criminal not to have it when it’s available,” she said.
As a teacher in her younger years, Mrs Hoy saw the benefits of immunisations and the damage when people weren’t vaccinated.
“I have one very stark reminder about inoculations,” she said. “When I was teaching, a boy in grade one or two got a cold followed by measles and he died. I’ve always been a firm believer that people should have vaccinations when they can.”
Mrs Hoy (nee Watson) was born and raised in Leongatha and has plenty of stories to tell about the region that she still loves.
Her father was a butcher for 57 years and during World War II, a young Joy would ride her bike around the streets of Leongatha to take meat orders.
In 1951 she went to Ballarat Teachers College. “I had to leave Leongatha on the steam train, get a cab to Spencer Street and then take another train to Ballarat; it took a whole day just to get there.”
While still staying in touch with friends she met at teacher’s college, Mrs Hoy looks back on her teaching career with fond memories.
“I taught in several Gippsland schools, starting in Drouin South where there was no power and I had to do my preparation by lantern light,” she said.
In 1957 she successfully applied for a promotion and moved to Inverloch but after marrying dairy farmer Bill Hoy in 1962 she had to retire from teaching follow government regulations of the time.
“That rule for married women changed later in the 60s but I didn’t go back because Bill and I had four children. My life was consumed with kids, cows and calves but we were happy and we did a lot of things together.”
Until his death a few years ago, Bill and Joy continued to enjoy going to cattle sales. “We both loved the cattle sales. I remember meeting one person at a cattle sale who said it was his 70th birthday and I used to teach him.”
In 1982 Mrs Hoy was elected unopposed for the north riding for the Shire of Woorayl, which was later abolished during local government amalgamations.
“Local government was something I always wanted to do I did two terms and loved it, especially in 1988 which was special because it was the centenary of the shire.
“I was only the third female councillor at the time but there have been many women since then, which is a good thing.”
Mrs Hoy moved into Hillside Lodge in 2019 before transferring last October for a higher level of care at Koorooman House.
She is a strong advocate for the service. “I’m very well cared for here; it’s splendid,” she said. “I struggle when I hear bad stories on TV about aged care. I think it frightens families. Sometimes, when your health fails and if you have falls, it’s not fair on your family so I elected to go to care.
“It was my choice and I’m very happy with it. I’ve got very good care and there’s always someone to talk to. We need to portray aged care as a better experience.”
Gippsland Southern Health Service CEO Mark Johnson said nearly 30 of the 36 residents of Koorooman House had consented to having the vaccination.
Residents of GSHS’s public aged care facilities in Korumburra will be offered vaccinations next week and aged care, urgent care and theatre staff will start receiving their vaccinations in coming weeks.
Mr Johnson urged residents and the general public to take the vaccination when it’s more widely available, saying it is approved and safe.
“I will definitely be taking it myself when it’s my turn,” he said.
The drive is coordinated by the Gippsland Region Public Health Unit (GRPHU) to vaccinate the ‘Phase 1A’ priority group, deemed to have the greatest risk of exposure to COVID-19.
GRPHU Operations Manager Annelies Titulaer said the rollout was the culmination of months of logistical planning and recruitment to key roles. “Sixteen experienced nurses, pharmacists and administration staff have been recruited to support a vaccination outreach program and will travel to towns across Gippsland. They have undergone training to ensure they are skilled in administering the vaccine,” she said.
A date has not yet been set for the beginning of the wider community vaccination program.