Frail patients to be moved: The Herald

Those with no relatives in province will go elsewhere in SA

THE Eastern Cape Social Development Department plans to start moving state-funded frail-care patients with no families in the province to facilities elsewhere in the country by next month.

This was one of the answers given by Social Development MEC Nancy Sihlwayi in response to written questions about the ongoing saga.

In mid-2016, Sihlwayi decided not to extend the contract for Eastern Cape Frail Care to provide ongoing care at the only two state-funded frail-care centres in the province.

Eastern Cape Frail Care is part of the Life Healthcare group and ran two Life Esidimeni centres in Nelson Mandela Bay, Lorraine Frail Care and Algoa Frail Care.

She announced her intention to move all state patients out of the two centres and relocate them to NGOs, saying the service was too expensive and out of proportion with the funding other NGOs received.

At the time the contract was for R104-million over two years for the care of 340 patients.

At the same time, the deaths caused by a similar move by the Department of Health in Gauteng was becoming evident.

The decision to move patients from Life Esidimeni centres to unqualified and unsafe NGOs was widely condemned by the health ombudsman, the minister of health and civil society.

In May last year, the department was barred by the Port Elizabeth High Court from moving patients from the two centres until the end of May unless they first obtained permission from a judge and a curator appointed for the patients.

Yesterday, in written answers to questions by the DA’s Kobus Botha, Sihlwayi finally announced the long-awaited migration plan.

The first patients to be moved would be those with family outside the province and this would happen between next month and June.

An agreement from the court and the curator appointed for the patients at the two centres would be sought before anybody was moved.

In her policy speech yesterday, Sihlwayi said the department would also do a feasibility study, based on the applicable norms and standards for older persons, to convert the building housing the Motherwell Service Centre into a state-owned facility.

Sihlwayi said they hoped to finalise the memorandum of understanding with the Department of Health on how to render frail-care services in future.

She first announced 16 months ago that they were finalising this memorandum.

Sihlwayi also said that the department still owed R7-million for frail-care services to the Eastern Cape Frail Care.

The health of all patients had been assessed and their levels of frailty had been determined.

They would next establish a multidisciplinary steering committee to draw up a plan to relocate patients close to their homes, consult with families and trace patients’ next of kin.

Botha said the department’s unpaid bills and ongoing placement uncertainties for patients needing frail care had once again threatened the lives of the 230 frail and elderly disabled people currently at the centres.

Frail Care Crisis Collective chairman Gerhard Lueck said: “The department seems very selective in who it is consulting during the planning phase.

“It looks like the families concerned will only be consulted once a decision has already been made.

“We as a collective stand united to oppose any plans which do not have the best interest of the patients at heart.”

Life Esidimeni managing director Puseletso Jaure said payments had been made for up to December.

“Resulting from proactive action on the part of the department and positive communication between us, Eastern Cape Frail Care is expecting all payments to be up to date by the end of March 2018,” she said. — Estelle Ellis