Court asked to rule in frail care pay dispute

Lorraine Frail Care Centre
Picture: Supplied

Department wants centres to cut tariffs by R9 800 a patient

The Port Elizabeth High Court has been asked to intervene after the Eastern Cape Department of Social Development refused to pay Eastern Cape Frail Care for keeping the doors of the only two fully state-funded frail cares in Port Elizabeth open in terms of a court order obtained by patients’ families.

Instead, Department of Social Development head Advocate Stanley Khanyile is demanding that Eastern Cape Frail Care cut its tariffs by R9 800 a patient a month before their bills are paid.

In a series of letters exchanged between Eastern Cape Frail Care, a company in the Life Healthcare group, and Khanyile, he refused to accept an offer of a lower tariff, of R15 000, which would have saved the department R3.4-million over the first six months of this year.

He instead demanded that the patient tariff be slashed from R18 800 to R9 000.

Eastern Cape Frail Care is now asking the court to order the department to pay them the full R18 800 a patient a month until a new service provider is appointed.

In papers filed at court ahead of a hearing date for the issue set for May 25, Etienne Petersen, the director of Life Esidimeni, said there was a dispute between them about the meaning of the court order.

Judge Phakamisa Tshiki’s order states that the two centres must be kept open until a new service provider had been appointed.

He also appointed a curator for the 249 patients at the two centres and asked that the court be presented with a plan on how and where the department intended to move them.

Petersen said they understood the court order to mean that their contract would be extended until a new service provider was appointed and that they should be paid accordingly.

Social Development spokesman Mzukisi Solani did not respond to a request for comment yesterday but in correspondence filed before court he said the department did not understand the court order to mean that the contract was extended.

They have offered to pay Eastern Cape Frail Care R9 000 a patient a month.

Peterson said they could not accept R9 000 a patient a month as staffing costs were too high and they would not be able to render the service if paid less.

“What is of concern to us is the pace at which the department has attempted to undertake such a transition coupled with the absence of a coherent, workable and achievable transitional phase that is alive and sensitive to all the role players and most importantly the patients and their needs,” Petersen said in court papers.

He said to the department’s credit they had paid the R26-million that was owing to Eastern Cape Frail Care in terms of the 2015-16 contract.

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