An administrator who unexpectedly took over the running of the Pontypridd care home where she works when over half its staff – including the manager – went down with Covid-19 has won through to the final of a major national award.

Despite the shock of learning one morning last year that the affects of the raging pandemic had left her as the most senior person available at The Hollies home, 41-year-old Louise Jarvis quickly rallied her remaining colleagues and told them that they would get through the crisis if they worked together.

She also found time to give as much love and care as possible to the home’s residents, even organising a special Valentine’s Day event for which she persuaded a local supermarket to donate red roses for them to wear as they marked the occasion in isolation with a meal delivered to their rooms.

It is this dedication to her caring role that has landed mum-of-two Louise, who lives with her family in Pontypridd, a place in the final of the 2022 Wales Care Awards.

The glittering presentation ceremony – sponsored by Ontex Healthcare – will be 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.

Louise has reached the final of the Commitment to Quality in Hospitality Award sponsored by Care Home Life.

Born and raised in Pontypridd, she attended Coed-y-Lan Comprehensive School in the town, leaving after the sixth form to study for a qualification in computer aided design at a specialist centre in Treforest.

Despite achieving the GNVQ Level 1, Louise’s life took a rather unexpected turn when, still in her late teens, she and her husband Nicholas, who works in the building industry, became the proud parents of their first child, Leah. Now aged 22, she is currently also working temporarily at The Hollies until taking up a place at Swansea University to study for a midwifery qualification.

Louise also has a 19-year-old son, Nicky, who is aiming to become a fully qualified plasterer.

After just a couple of years off while the children were young, Louise returned to the world of work, starting with four years spent in retail.

In 2009 she landed a job at The Hollies, becoming first a care assistant and then being promoted to the home’s activities co-ordinator – a job she says she adored because it gave her the chance to arrange a host of special trips for residents, ranging from fruit picking outings to the local panto.

After her managerial potential – and thirst to acquire qualifications to enable her to do her job better, which still continues – she stepped up to her current role in 2016.

Louise recalled that things were going well for her until the dark day in February last year when Covid-19 struck at The Hollies.

She said: “We first learned that one of our residents had tested positive. We dealt with that but within just the next hour 23 also residents tested positive. Soon after that 29 of our 57 staff members also went down with Covid, including the home manager.

“That left me, as the most senior member of the management team, as the one in charge of the home. My first priority was to call on environmental health and Public Health Wales to get advice on how I should handle things.

“Although my stomach was churning at the thought of the responsibility I’d taken on, I told the remaining staff members that if everyone worked together everything would be ok.

“I also regularly rang the staff with Covid-19 to see how they were and arranged to pick up some vital shopping for one of the sickest ones and leave it on her doorstep.”

Louise added: “Sadly, we eventually lost three of our residents to Covid and I was able to sit with one lady who was very ill. I spoke to her, made her a drink and helped her get her medication, but sadly she passed away shortly after.

“But it wasn’t all sadness. I managed to arrange the Valentine’s Day celebration. I persuaded the local Tesco to donate a red rose for everyone and a three-course meal was delivered to their rooms in isolation.”

In nominating Louise for the award, home manager Sharon White said of her:  “Louise is responsible for the smooth running of the administrative side of the home but she still makes sure she knows every resident and builds her rapport with each and every one of them.

“She really is like my right-hand lady. Nothing is too much trouble for her.

“She has really been a rock for me and has stepped in at the home during the pandemic. It really was an awful and stressful time as we wanted to help but could not be there. Louise, without any hesitation took over the home. She immediately re-did all the rotas, organised cover and actually helped on the floor where ever she was required. She knew staff were scared and unsettled but she kept staff morale high at this time.

“Residents and family members love Louise because she is cheeky, funny, helpful and kind.”

Of reaching the finals of the awards Louise said: “I was very shocked but very much humbled when I was told about this.”

“It’s lovely to know that your achievements are being recognized in this way. But, like everyone else in the care sector, I work here for the love of the job.”

“I can’t wait to attend the finals night in Cardiff with my colleagues from the home. I’ve been going for a number of years and I love listening to everyone’s stories. I am honored to be accepting the award on behalf of the whole team at the Hollies as everyone pulled together at a very difficult time.”

Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the aim of the Wales Care Awards was to recognise the unstinting and remarkable dedication of unsung heroes and heroines across Wales.

He said: “The social care sector is full of wonderful people because it’s not just a job, it’s a vocation – these are people who go the extra mile for others.

“During the Covid crisis, this fantastic workforce rose magnificently to the challenge, putting their own lives on the line to do everything they possibly could to safeguard the people for whom they provide care.

“Unfortunately, it has taken a global pandemic for many other people to realise how important and how significant our social care workforce is.

“Their incredible contribution was summed up best in the powerful and emotive words of the song, Heroes of our Heart, written by the acclaimed poet Mererid Hopwood and sung by Sir Bryn Terfel, which was set to the famous tune of Men of Harlech. The message that the diolch should last forever is one that we should never forget.

“If you don’t recognise the people who do the caring you will never provide the standards people need and never recognise the value of people who need care in society.

“All the nominees deserve to be lauded and applauded and it’s a real pleasure to honour the contribution of all the finalists.

“I congratulate all the individuals who have shown outstanding dedication and professionalism. Every one of them should be proud of their achievement.

“They are Wales’s finest.”