Residents protest closure of old age homes

Residents protested outside Nerina Place and Oakhaven old age homes last week, as they are opposed to the closure of three homes.

Residents opposing the closure of three old age homes for the poor have appealed to the provincial Department of Social Development (DSD) to intervene.

Last week residents held placard demonstrations outside the homes, expressing dismay that more than 300 seniors, some of whom are frail, will have to be moved to other facilities during a pandemic.

The homes set for closure – Nerina Place in Bishop Lavis, Lilyhaven Place in Bonteheuwel and Oakhaven in Heideveld – are run by the Cape Peninsula Organisation for the Aged (CPOA). The elderly will be placed either at Erica Place in Athlone or Lotus River Place in Lotus River.

The CPOA announced in December that these three welfare homes will be closing, saying that it has lost R265 million over the past 10 years, and that Covid-19 added to the high additional costs for protective gear, strict sanitising measures and isolation units.

The CPOA is a non-profit organisation. Spokesperson Sandi Gelderbloem said the decision to close the welfare homes had not been taken lightly, but that it would not be financially sustainable to keep the homes open.

Abdul Karriem Matthews, who is a representative of a committee formed from the three areas who are opposing the closures, said they are sceptical about the CPOA’s financial losses.

“The CPOA’s position is that they were forced to close because of their budget. They claim a loss of more than R200 million over 10 years. We have asked them to open their books so that this claim can be investigated. We have had an online meeting with them, and they have agreed to suspend the relocation of the seniors for 10 days, pending our negotiations. We have suggested that the DSD take over the three buildings, with all its running costs, or that the DSD gives CPOA a 100% funding,” Mr Matthews said.

He added that they will have another meeting soon, as the DSD was not part of the initial meeting.

Esther Lewis, DSD’s spokesperson, said her department’s role – as stipulated in the Older Persons Act – is to register facilities, and monitor adherence to norms and standards of care within facilities.

“While DSD subsidises older persons within facilities, all old age homes are owned and managed independently, thus the DSD cannot reverse or halt the CPOA board’s decision to close the three homes,” she said.

When asked about the possibility of the DSD taking over the running of the three homes, Ms Lewis said: “We don’t own any homes. The DSD subsidises qualifying frail residents with R3 683 per person, per month (the amount differs for different categories of care, where residents are not frail). The subsidy has increased from R2 400 over the last five years.

If the subsidy is increased, it must be implemented across all 117 funded old age homes in the province. We have not had any increases in the last financial year because of budget cuts.”

Sharon Lang, chairperson of the Western Cape Older Persons’ Forum’s greater Athlone area, also expressed her concern over the closures.

“Why do they want to move the elderly? Some of their families would be too far from them to visit them at the other facilities. Our other concern is that once the buildings will be left vacant, it will definitely be vandalised,” Ms Lang said.

Ms Lewis said the DSD would continue to engage, monitor and provide support to the CPOA on various levels.