A resourceful administrator who had to take over the running of a Caerphilly care home with 45 residents when her colleagues were hit by Covid-19 has struck silver in major national awards.
Katherine Shorney– described by her boss as its “beating heart” – shouldered the full burden of responsibility for HC-One’s Church View home for three months as the pandemic raged.
She took on everything from masterminding a highly commended testing and vaccination programme to providing to support and encouragement to hard-pressed fellow staff.
It is this dedication to her caring role that has landed 49-year-old Katherine a silver accolade in the 2022 Wales Care Awards.
The glittering presentation ceremony – sponsored by Ontex Healthcare – was held at City Hall in Cardiff on Friday October 21, hosted by tenor and radio presenter Wynne Evans, better known as Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV ads.
The awards are in association with Care Forum Wales, a not-for-profit organisation set up in 1993 to give independent care providers a single professional voice with which to speak on one of the most important issues of our time – how to provide better quality care for those who need it most.
Katherine, who lives in Saint Annes Gardens, Abertridwr, Caerphilly, won silver in the Commitment to Quality in Hospitality Award sponsored by Care Home Life.
Born and raised in the area where she still lives, Katherine has been married to John, a civil servant, for the past 26 years. Their 21-year-old son Morgan works in the air conditioning industry.
After attending Cwm Aber junior school and St Cenydd Comprehensive she landed her first job at the Debenhams department store in Cardiff and later became sales manager for a window blinds company in Caerphilly.
In 2007 Katherine joined the care team at Church View to become the home’s administrator.
Over the past 15 years she has become a key figure there, known for the help she gives to both residents and staff.
Her capability was tested to the limit – and beyond – when Covid-19 struck.
Katherine said: “The past couple of years have been extremely challenging for me and everyone else who works in the care sector but by supporting one another we got through it.
“A number of our staff tested positive so obviously couldn’t work, others were helping out elsewhere and our usual agency wasn’t able to supply us with replacements.
“Due to all this – and because I was lucky enough not to get Covid until the very end and then not badly – I ended up running the home for about three months, with lots of support from head office.
“It was a difficult time for us all and, sadly, there were a few residents’ deaths. I became the go-to person for everyone, even if it was just to provide a shoulder to cry on.
“At times I had to get myself out of the office to help out with the residents, even if it was just serving them a meal.
“At the height of things one lady had her 100th birthday but because of the restrictions we couldn’t help her celebrate in the usual way. That didn’t stop us having a very small party for her and she did get her card from the Queen.
“I also organised the testing and vaccination programme with the local health authority.
“We were in the thick of things inside the home but outside relatives, who we couldn’t allow to make visits, were very worried about their mum or dad. We constantly tried to reassure them they were in safe hands and we were doing our best to look after them.”
Home manager Ellen Smith, who nominated Katherine for the award, said of her: “She is always approachable, warm, knowledgeable and more than happy to help.
“She is greatly respected by her team of colleagues at Church View as well as our residents and relatives. She has a kind, calming and caring nature as well as an ability to get along with everyone, including being there to offer a listening ear and advice when needed.
“Katherine is truly the beating heart of Church View Care Home.”
“She was key with the COVID-19 testing and also the communications with the testing and vaccine team.
“She was also been one of the key contacts and people in the home who kept relatives informed of visiting updates.
“Katherine took the lead on organising the vaccine team to come to Church View and received an amazing compliment from them which said: ‘We were shown excellent services during our stay. The staff are professional and the standard is of paramount. We were provided with food and drinks. The rooms are clean and cleanliness is to a high standard.’”
Katherine said of reaching the finals: “I was shocked and surprised when I heard about it. I knew about these awards but never thought I would be involved in them myself.
“I was completely blown away when I was told I had reached the final but it is lovely to have this kind of feedback on what you are doing.”
Mario Kreft, chairman of Care Forum Wales, said the ceremony was all the more poignant because of the Covid pandemic and what front line staff had endured.
He said: “I would like to pay a heartfelt tribute to all the wonderful people who work in social care after the rose magnificently and courageously to meet the unprecedented challenges they have faced over the past couple of years.
“We have always recognised their true value and hopefully now the rest of Wales is also aware of how lucky we are as a nation to have them providing care and safeguarding our most vulnerable people.
“Our finalists are the best of the best and are here representing the whole social care workforce who all deserve a big pat on the back.
“There are only winners here tonight so it is only fitting that the finalists will receive a gold, silver or bronze Wales Care Award.
“I trust that they will continue to inspire those around them as role models and encourage others to aspire to even greater heights and in the months and years to come.
“In the words of the powerful song, Heroes of our Heart, written by the acclaimed poet Mererid Hopwood and sung by Sir Bryn Terfel, let the Diolch last forever.
“We take our hats off to them.”