Legal battle looms over frail care closures: The Herald

A COMPLAINT has been laid with the Human Rights Commission, and the provincial Department of Social Development is facing legal action over the closure of Port Elizabeth’s only two fully-funded frail care centres.

Robin Ownhouse, who has a relative at the Algoa Frail Care Centre, confirmed yesterday that his family had filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

Meanwhile, a letter of demand from Legal Aid SA on behalf of the frail care families was sent on Friday to social development department head Stanley Khanyile, asking that the centres’ contracts be extended in the next seven days – or the department will face legal action.

Last month, family members were told the centres would close at the end of December.

Tempers flared and tears flowed at a meeting of family members of those affected yesterday. Angry family members demanded answers from social worker Jonette Fourie, but she could not provide any.

In similar fashion to all the officials before her and even MEC Nancy Sihlwayi, she said they could still give no details on where and when patients from the Algoa and Lorraine frail care centres would be transferred.

Family member Ethel Nono said it was disrespectful and shocking that the department still had no answers.

“Why must they close those centres? I say they must keep them open. Nobody is going to look after our family so well,” she said. Her comment was met with applause. Tony Harris, whose daughter is at the Lorraine Frail Care Centre, said he had been praying hard over the issue.

“I have peace in my soul over this. God will intervene,” he said.

Sobbing family members told how the two centres were an answer to their prayers.

A confidential source said that so far there was only space for 20 frail care patients elsewhere in the metro. A total of 240 patients have to be moved.

“We are all very concerned about what is happening,” Rina Cilliers, manager of the two centres, said.

“Our entire team will do everything we can to make sure the patients’ transfers are safe and dignified.”

Cilliers said they have provided full medical, personal and psychological information about their patients to the department.

Fourie could not provide any details of the intended transfers.

“The pending transfer of patients is a big change. We understand the uncertainty. We are committed to dealing with this in a responsible way.”

She said there was a steering committee that was meeting on a weekly basis to deal with the issue.

“We have done an assessment of all patients,” she said. Harris said the decision was a disaster. “When are we going to know where you are taking my daughter? If you move her to Johannesburg it will be financial suicide for us,” he said, explaining that this would necessitate him moving too.

Unlike Sihlwayi, who said people could be moved to different centres in the province, Fourie gave an undertaking that nobody with family in the metro would be moved away from Nelson Mandela Bay.

“The social workers told us that they can take my sister to Johannesburg,” Len Fourie said.

“Bring those people from the provincial department here so that they can answer our questions,” he said.

The DA’s Bobby Stevenson, who also attended the meeting, said it was inhumane and callous to the extreme for the department to refuse to provide answers.

“The Eastern Cape government is failing in its duty to provide answers to these family members,” he said.

The family members also signed a petition against the closure of the centres, which will be sent to the provincial legislature.

In a letter to Ownhouse, which The Herald has seen, the Human Rights Commission confirmed receipt of his complaint, saying it would investigate.

Social development spokesman Mzukisi Solani did not respond to a request for comment. — ellise@timesmedia.co.za

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