WHILE the Department of Social Development has decided not to renew the contracts for the only two fully state-funded frail care centres in Nelson Mandela Bay due to “affordability” issues, it has wasted hundreds of thousands of rands due to not paying its bills on time.
The department’s own annual report mentions of large sums in fruitless and wasteful expenditure incurred for late payments.
The report, tabled in the provincial legislature last month, stated that R228 000 was wasted on interest that had to be paid on electricity, phone and rates bills and supplier invoices, because social development officials had failed to pay them on time.
Residents of the two Life Healthcare frail care centres – Lorraine Frail Care and Algoa Frail Care – and their families, were shocked to learn last week that both centres would close on December 31.
There are 240 residents at the centres who need constant, specialist frail care.
Social workers have been asking families to sign transfer forms allowing the department to move residents to centres run by non-government organisations anywhere in South Africa.
For a fourth day in a row, Social Development spokesman Mzukisi Solani has ignored requests for reasons behind the sudden decision.
Southwest Port Elizabeth DA constituency leader MPL Bobby Stevenson and MPL Kobus Botha visited the two centres yesterday.
Stevenson said the frail care crisis was one of the worst violations of human rights he had yet seen.
Botha said: “These [people] require highly specialised care and need full-time attention. They also need specific infrastructure and equipment that these homes [have].
“It is quite clear that there is no Department of Social Development plan to deal with the situation.”
He said the DA was appalled that the elderly and frail could be treated in such a heartless fashion.
“I call on Social Development MEC Nancy Sihlwayi to spell out why these centres are being closed and what happens next.
“People simply cannot be dumped on families and other institutions that are not [ready] to deal with them,” Botha said.
“We are facing a massive potential social crisis similar to what happened in Gauteng recently, where patients died.”
Maureen Andreka, of the Algoa Bay Council for the Aged, said the organisation was concerned as many of the residents’ pensions were paid directly to the centre.
“No plans have been presented to us on how these residents will access their pensions after the centres close,” she said. — firstname.lastname@example.org