240 residents must leave as funding withdrawn
The Department of Social Development will be closing down the only fully state-funded frail care centres in Nelson Mandela Bay in six weeks’ time – a shock decision affecting the lives of 240 disabled and elderly patients.
The two facilities – the Algoa Frail Care Centre in Bethelsdorp and the Lorraine Frail Care Centre – are run by the Life Healthcare group and the contract between it and the depart- ment expires on December 31.
The centres accommodate about 100 and 140 patients respectively.
Life Healthcare Services operations executive Dr Nilesh Patel said they had been told the department could no longer afford the service.
One of the patients at the Algoa Frail Care Centre is in a coma, without family, and others have never been identified.
Some of the patients at the Lorraine Frail Care Centre have been there for almost 30 years.
All now face being moved to homes run by underfunded NGOs.
Leonard Fourie, 77, of Rowallan Park, whose sister Terzha, 72, has been at the Lorraine centre for 25 years, said she had regressed so badly due to the distressing news that she could only repeat:
“They will not take me away from here.”
He alleged that social workers were trying to force families to sign a document stating that the department could move residents anywhere they liked.
Patel said it was out of the Life group’s hands.
Despite the devastating decision, scores of officials from Bhisho are expected to arrive at the Lorraine Frail Care Centre on Friday for the facility’s 30th birthday celebrations.
Algoa Bay Council for the Aged official Maureen Andreka said she was dreading a possible repeat of what happened in Gauteng when 36 psychiatric patients died after being removed from Life Group facilities and placed in the care of small NGOs in August and September.
An investigation into the Gauteng debacle is under way.
“Nelson Mandela Bay organisations have been approached to take these extremely fragile patients,” Andreka said.
“Even with a recently announced increase in the subsidy for the NGOs providing frail care, from R1 750 to R2 000 a month, no organisation can afford it.”
Life Healthcare received R5 000 a patient a month.
“These patients are people who had no other options, no family members who could take care of them and no money,” Andreka said.
“Some of them have been there for decades.”
The council has now been instructed to stop placing people at the two centres.
“NGOs running frail care centres around the city have been contacted to see how many patients they are willing to take,” she said.
“Our concern is that these people need special care. They are very frail. They can’t look after themselves.”
Ekuphumleni Old Age Home director Mongameli Peter said the facility was willing to help and could take five patients, but only on condition that the department paid more than the standard subsidy per patient.
“We certainly can’t claim perfection but we will try our best,” Peter said.
DA shadow social development MEC Kobus Gerber said he was shocked.
“I serve on the portfolio committee for social development and nothing of this nature was ever discussed,” he said.
“It is a gross violation of people’s human rights. “I will be writing to [Social Development] MEC Nancy Sihlwayi asking for clarity.”
Algoa Bay Council for the Aged principal social worker Lisa Diesel said: “There is a major shortage of subsidised and affordable frail care facilities in the Eastern Cape.”
“The two Life [Healthcare] facilities were the only two in the metro admitting frail older people with only a state pension.”
“Most of the others are full, have very long waiting lists or charge more than the average older person can afford.”
Patel said residents had been told recently and Life Health was in talks with the department about the future of staff members.
He confirmed that part of the Algoa Frail Care facility that is being run as a home for handicapped children would remain open.
Officials failed to respond to questions.