Augustus takes charge at Westmeath
A care home recovering from an outbreak of Covid-19 has a new executive director who is no stranger to a crisis.
April Augustus will take the helm at Westmeath Nursing and Residential Home on Monday, after a year-long stint as executive director at the Eliza DoLittle Society, which provides food for those in need.
Ms Augustus, a New Yorker who moved to the island about four years ago after she married a Bermudian, said she was unfazed by the prospect of taking over a seniors’ home in a pandemic.
She explained: “I have worked in neighbourhoods where I have seen people getting shot. I have dealt with bodies. It’s unfortunate that I’m prepared on that level, but I am not going to shy away from a crisis.”
She added: “I applied a while back. It was before everything hit the island. But that being said ... that wouldn’t have deterred me at all. I come from a city that unfortunately has a lot of issues.”
Ms Augustus’s background is in shelter management in America’s most populous city, including those for people with mental health and substance abuse problems.
She said: “When you are running a shelter, you run into a lot of different crises. I also had to deal with 9/11 as well. I was in total crisis mode. Dealing with 9/11, you can’t really prep for that. When you have dealt with a crisis like that, you are kind of broken in.”
Ms Augustus added she was working with the police on a programme to support victims of domestic violence when the terrorist attacks hit the city on September 11, 2001.
She said: “I was running five precincts in the Bronx. I was pretty much supervising the case managers in the precincts, making sure the clients were safe.”
Ms Augustus added that a lot of people lost their jobs in the aftermath of the attack.
She said: “I was really dealing with that ... while trying to make sure the clients were safe. It involved going out with the NYPD wearing a bullet proof vest.”
She added the work was “basically putting out fires” and that it was “very intense”.
Ms Augustus said she and her team at the Eliza DoLittle Society in recent months have handled an upsurge in the number of people needing to use the charity’s food bank because of Covid-19.
She added: “We are basically serving close to a thousand clients a week. It’s increased because of the pandemic. A lot of people have lost their job, they are struggling. Numbers have increased, the lines have gotten longer.”
Ms Augustus said: “Just last month, we served over 7,000 meals. I have met a lot of clients and they are really good people out there, really humble and sweet and grateful. I have had phenomenal volunteers.
“I am sad to be leaving, but they are being left in good hands. I know they’ll do a great job and I am looking forward to the next stage in my career.”
Westmeath, Bermuda’s largest care home, has suffered 13 confirmed cases of Covid-19, including two deaths.
It is also understood to have had three further cases, with the patients who tested positive now recovering, though health minister Kim Wilson did not identify Westmeath when she announced those results on May 22.
Ms Augustus said the fact the home was in the middle of an outbreak when she was offered the job “wasn’t a concern to me at all”. She said: “It’s safety first, regardless. It’s a perfect match for me.”
She added she had spent the last couple of weeks working part-time at the home on Pitts Bay Road in Pembroke to prepare to take over as executive director from Fiona Douglas on Monday.
That included learning procedures for containment of a highly contagious virus.
Ms Augustus, who has degrees in criminal justice and organisational leadership, said: “I feel that they have it under control.”
She added: “I have loved it. What I like is that I see there is team work there. The residents are very happy. When I walked in, it felt like it was a home environment. As far as the staff that worked there, it felt like a family unit.”
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