MEC tight-lipped on patients’ fate

MEC Nancy Sihlwayi Picture: SowetanLIVE
MEC Nancy Sihlwayi
Picture: SowetanLIVE

We can’t carry on paying for care centres – Sihlwayi

After weeks of obfuscation, Social Development MEC Nancy Sihlwayi finally admitted yesterday that the only two fully state-funded frail care centres in Port Elizabeth will close down at the end of the month, but was tight-lipped about the fate of the patients.

Sihlwayi declined to say where and when the patients would be moved or who would care for them.

However, she conceded at the media briefing in Port Elizabeth that with less than a month to go before the closure of the centres, her officials were working to tight deadlines.

She said the department could no longer afford to pay the twoyear, R104-million contract.

The affected Life Esidimeni centres – Lorraine Frail Care and Algoa Frail Care – house about 240 severely disabled and frail patients.

But families should not worry, Sihlwayi said: “We won’t put them out on the street.

“I am not going to answer questions on what would happen if the non-profit organisations we will appoint can’t do the job.”

Sihlwayi was in the city for meetings with non-profit organisations operating homes for the aged to take over the frail care service.

“Paying so much was very depressing for me. We still owe a lot of money,” she said.

The contract was concluded with East Cape Frail Care (ECFC), a company in the Life Healthcare group, while Sihlwayi was MEC.

Dr Nilesh Patel, of ECFC, said this week he was surprised when the department put out an extremely expensive tender, twice the price of the previous one in 2014.

He said the company had offered the department cheaper frail care rates (R73-million and R96-million) but its offer was ignored.

Sihlwayi said social workers had been in touch with patients’ families about the move.

“We [will] do our best to move people to facilities in Port Elizabeth, but I can’t guarantee it.”

Sihlwayi said she was not at all concerned that the city would see a repeat of what happened in Gauteng, when psychiatric patients were moved from Life Esidimeni centres to facilities run by NPOs – and at least 36 people died.

“That is a health issue. We don’t deal with health issues,” she said.

Sihlwayi said the department was finalising a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Health to provide services to the frail care patients.

“It was unfortunate that the two centres were outsourced to a private company. We are not going to use the private sector any more to do a government job.”

Advocate Paul Hoffmann SC, of the Institute for Accountability in SA, said the families should take the matter up with the public protector and the SA Human Rights Council as patients’ human rights were being infringed.

 

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