Joint oversight committee starts inspecting sites
A high-powered joint oversight committee from the social development and health departments has started inspecting the facilities identified for 239 frail care patients to be moved to. The visits, which took place yesterday, were aimed at avoiding a situation such as that which resulted in the deaths of 94 psychiatric patients in Gauteng.
The joint committee is headed by portfolio committee on health chairman Xolisis Dimbaza and portfolio committee on social development chairman Christian Martin.
The only two fully state-funded specialist frail care centres in Nelson Mandela Bay – Algoa Frail Care and Lorraine Frail Care – were earmarked for closure when the contract for East Cape Frail Care, a Life Healthcare Group company that manages the two centres, was not renewed last year.
The plan was to move patients at the end of December.
However, the Port Elizabeth High Court ordered the department to extend the contract.
Premier Phumulo Masualle said at a media briefing before the state of the province address on Friday that the matter was being handled with great care.
Health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said he could not elaborate on the plan as the entire matter was being handled by the premier’s office.
The oversight visits were hastily organised last week as the Department of Social Development indicated that it intended moving the patients to one of the following facilities:
- Ekuphumeleni Old Age Home in Zwide;
- Gelvan Park Old Age Home in Gelvan Park;
- Cheshire Home in Cleary Park;
- Calie Evans Old Age Home in Cathcart;
- Huis John Vorster in Queenstown.
According to documents seen by The Herald, those who cannot be accommodated by these facilities will be kept in state hospitals until a “realignment” with family members can be facilitated.
To date, Social Development MEC Nancy Sihlwayi has declined to publish details of her “migration plan”.
It is understood that NPOs that agree to take patients from the existing frail care centres will receive a monthly subsidy of R4 000 as well as the patient’s social grant for a limited period of a year. The subsidy will then be revised. At present, the state pays R16 000 per patient a month for those at the Algoa and Lorraine Frail Care centres.
Sihlwayi has said previously that the disparity between these amounts and that paid to old age homes (R1 700 a person a month) is too big.
Maureen Andreka, from the Algoa Bay Council for the Aged, which had previously assisted in placing patients at the two frail care centres, said the screening process for the centres was very strict and this meant, in many cases, that the patients currently in Algoa and Lorraine Frail Care had already been rejected by other facilities.
She was not convinced that it would be viable to move frail care patients who could not find placement at one of these facilities to a hospital.
“A hospital is not a home. These people have needs that doctors and nurses in a hospital cannot attend to,” she said.
Frail Care Crisis Collective (FCCC) chairman Gerhardt Loock said they had received an offer to settle a court case between the FCCC and the Department of Social Development out of court, but had rejected it.
The FCCC brought an urgent application in December to stop the transfer of patients from the two centres.
At that time, the Department of Social Development agreed.
The Port Elizabeth High Court is due to decide on Thursday whether to keep an order in place compelling the Department of Health to keep patients at the frail care centres until a proper migration plan has been approved by the curator, Advocate Sarah Sephton.
“We would very much like to meet with the oversight committee to raise our concerns,” Loock said.
“With all due respect, there is a massive difference in practice between a specialist frail care centre and an old age home.
“We haven’t been informed of a plan yet. At this stage, all we know is that they [Social Development] are trying not to go to court . . .
“We want the court order kept in place … to keep the Algoa and Lorraine Frail Care Centres open until a plan to move patients is approved by Sephton.”