Bhisho keeps quiet about ‘uncaring’ decision on PE centres
In the face of widespread condemnation over the closure of the only two fully state funded frail care centres in Port Elizabeth, the Department of Social Development has, for the third day in a row, refused to say why they will be closed.
Spokesman Mzukisi Solani promised on Monday and Tuesday to get answers from department head Stanley Khanyile, but comment was still not forthcoming yesterday.
Life Healthcare, which ran the two centres, Lorraine Frail Care and Algoa Frail Care, confirmed on Tuesday that its contract had not been renewed.
Healthcare services operations executive Dr Nilesh Patel said the company had been informed that the department could no longer afford to run the centres.
The 240 residents, all frail and some disabled, were told about the closure, scheduled for December 31, on Friday.
Families have been asked to sign a transfer form allowing the department to move residents to anywhere in South Africa.
Eastern Cape legislature DA leader Bobby Stevenson and MPL Kobus Botha are due in the Bay today to visit both facilities and to meet representatives of the Algoa Bay Council for the Aged.
Botha said he had received numerous phone calls from concerned family members.
In a letter to Social Development MEC Nancy Sihlwayi, he asked for urgent information on where residents would be moved to and if there would be sufficient frail care at alternative facilities.
On behalf of religious leaders in the city, Bishop Bethlehem Nopece said they wanted to express extreme concern over the planned closures.
“Here we were thinking the government was a caring government – which is what the celebration of Christmas is all about. It is about love and compassion and care,” he said.
“We are imploring the department to change its mind and find funding.
“This society will never be healthy if we are constantly plagued such by actions. “Let me be very clear. We are opposed to what is going on here. It is the action of an uncaring government.
“I want to tell the Eastern Cape government ‘We see you. We see that you pretend to care when you want us to vote.’ It is highly deplorable.”
Public interest law centre Section 27 also expressed shock at the decision.
“In the light of the deaths of psychiatric patients under state care in Gauteng, due to a similar decision by the Gauteng Department of Health, we would expect the Department of Social Development not to repeat that conduct, which may have potential catastrophic consequences,” it said.
At a mayoral committee meeting yesterday, human settlements portfolio head Nqaba Bhanga asked mayor Athol Trollip to write to the provincial government.
Bhanga said it was concerning that the municipality had not been informed about something which affected residents of the metro.
He said the metro should “use the power we have to [switch off] their [the department’s] electricity at the buildings where they owe us [money]”.
Trollip said he would write to provincial premier Phumulo Masualle and Sihlwayi.