Frail care crisis deepens as state delays

Subsidy offer could see NGOs out of pocket, department mum on bed requests

Some of the non-government organisations which have agreed to take patients from two state frail care facilities set to close at the end of the month will only do so if the Department of Social Development buys them beds.

With just three weeks left until the Lorraine and Algoa frail care centres close, no plan has been revealed for the patients’ relocation.

Their families have also still not been told where the patients will be moved to.

At a meeting to discuss the situation, family members said harried social workers, with tight deadlines, had told patients with Alzheimers and dementia they would be moved but had not informed their families.

Only about a quarter of those at the meeting on Sunday had been visited by social workers.

Chantelle Meiring, who has two elderly relatives at Lorraine Frail Care Centre, said the couple had been married for more than 50 years. “We are very anxious that social workers might separate them.”

Maureen Andreka, of the Algoa Bay Council for the Aged, said the list of NGOs and NPOs that had offered to provide frail care to the patients was being handled by the provincial Department of Social Development.

“District officials say they don’t know [where the patients will go] and are still waiting for the list of responses to be released.”

Andreka said a meeting with NGOs and NPOs to discuss the issue had taken place late last week.

“Just going by the responses – and this figure has not been denied by a district official – I’d say it would be optimistic to find a space for just 20% of the patients at the two centres,” she said.

“Of those who responded, some had conditions such as that the Department of Social Development must supply beds – and, so far, the department has refused to give an undertaking.

“The subsidy offer on the table [R4 000 a patient a month] will still have most NGOs who take the frail care residents on board doing so at an operating loss.

“The department will also not guarantee that the subsidy will be available after a year and it could be withdrawn at any time due to budget constraints.

“It is a big financial risk to those coming forward to house [them].”

The Eastern Cape Health Crisis Action Coalition has called on its network of health activists “to rise” in protest against the move.

“Let us not allow one more death to happen in the name of saving money,” the coalition said.

“Please write to the Department of Social Development and warn it that it is on the brink of making a potentially fatal mistake.”

DA MPL Kobus Botha repeated his call to the MEC to stop evading questions on the frail care issue.

“The MEC is again requested to do the right thing . . . ensure there is much greater transparency regarding this issue,” he said.

On Friday, the United Nations Human Rights Council issued a scathing statement on the death of 37 psychiatric patients in Gauteng.

They died after being placed in the care of NGOs when the Life Esidimeni centres there were closed.

“South Africa must set up a policy framework to guide its deinstitutionalisation process,” the UN human rights experts’ statement said.

“While deinstitutionalisation is the right approach, when implemented without a plan based in human rights that increases community-based services, and provides adequate housing and financial resources, it can have fatal consequences, as [seen in Gauteng].”

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