A Lentegeur woman is digging in her heels that residents and tenants at Beaconvale Community Frail Care Centre are living under poor conditions, namely inadequate staffing, maladministration, poor hygiene and inhumane conditions.
This comes after the centre’s board chairman Solomon Philander opened a case of cyber bullying against Youmna Mohamed, coordinator of Lobelia Seniors’ Club, and a member of a group of 25 coordinators of seniors’ and health clubs in Mitchell’s Plain, who protested outside the Beacon Valley Centre on Wednesday October 18.
Ms Mohamed’s TikTok video on September 2, included complaints about bad smells “worse than the drains” greeting entrants to the centre, which went viral on her social media platforms.
In the video she interviews senior citizen Phathiela Manual, 67, who had been referred to the centre to see a social worker.
She said that they could not smell any detergent.
Ms Mohamed comments that the City of Cape Town had given the Centre R250 000 but they could not afford to allow the place to smell better.
“Not right for the elderly to live in filth. They take the people’s pension,” she said.
She told the Plainsman yesterday Tuesday October 24 that she will not apologise and that subsequent to the video, people have sent her statements and made videos testifying to their living conditions and care received at the centre.
Ms Mohamed said that they had filed a complaint with the Department of Social Development.
Esther Lewis, head of communications for the Department of Social Development (DSD), said that they were aware of the videos circulating on social media.
“An early morning unannounced visit was conducted earlier in October, as part of a monitoring process. Walk-abouts were conducted to observe the living conditions, care routines, hygiene and cleanliness, and general compliance with norms and standards. Group and individual interviews were conducted with residents, as well as staff,” she said.
Ms Lewis said that the department’s findings and recommendations were presented to the board and management for implementation as part of a service delivery improvement plan.
She said that the role of the department was to register old age homes, monitor compliance with norms and standards, and to investigate any allegations of elder abuse. The Western Cape DSD does not manage or own any old age homes. These are owned and operated by non-profit organisation (NPO) boards and management teams.
“All facilities must have a complaints procedure available to residents and their family members, which details the process. The first step is to approach the facility manager. The next step would be to approach the board. Depending on the nature of the allegations, residents and their caregivers also have the option to directly approach the board,” she said.
According to a letter titled Community Frail Care Group, the club coordinators, along Ms Mohamed, propose that the facility be cleaned, inside and out; that structured activities for the seniors be offered by trained personnel; nutritional meal plans developed by a dietician, customised for each person; that three meals and snacks be served daily; provide toiletries; that the management be removed; and that another non-profit organisation (NPO) take over.
Mr Philander told the Plainsman that he only read the formal complaint from the group on Monday October 23 when the media asked for a response.
“We the management board are aware of the protest that was held in front of the organisation. We acknowledge and respect every South African’s right to protest subject to that it does not infringe on others’ rights to freedom and association as protected in our Constitution. I want to express my dissatisfaction that the group was chanting in front of the old age home and was then reprimand by the City Law Enforcement to silently protest and not put the frail at risk,” he said.
Mr Philander said the board decided to open a case at Lentegeur police station — to ask the court to have Ms Mohamed bring evidence of her allegations made in public.
“This will give the organisation an opportunity to respond to the allegations raised and give both parties the opportunity to present evidence to the allegations,” he said.
He said that the DSD has 24-hour access to visit the facility unannounced.
Various senior clubs frequent the centre and do activities with the residents, namely Silverthreads, Beacon Valley fitness, Lobelia Fitness club and church groups.
Mr Philander said that Lobelia Seniors’ club was not allowed on the premises because they did not have the decency to consult with the facility before they raised matters on social media.
“We do not shy away from receiving complaints, internally or externally. Every complaint will be investigated and receive equal attention and feedback will be given. We continue to advocate for seniors and stand against any abuse of the elder or any human being,” read his response to the Plainsman’s enquiry.
Bernie Galant, coordinator for Northwood Health and Diabetic Club, who was was also at the demonstration said that they were waiting on the Department of Health’s assessment of the centre.
She said that she had called the centre several times to speak to management about concerns but were first interrogated about the nature of the call and then the phone would be dropped.
Ms Galant said they had a permit to protest and they would ensure proper procedures were followed to ensure the plight of the centre’s residents, staff and patients were heard. She said that this was the group’s second protest at the frail care centre. The first protest was on Saturday September 30, along AZ Berman Drive, behind the centre.
Lentegeur police station commander Colonel Umavathie Rameshwarnath said that contravention of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act was being investigated.
According to the Government Gazetter it provides for the facilitation and regulation of electronic communications and transactions.
Colonel Rameshwarnath said that they were awaiting a senior public prosecuted’s decision on how to proceed with the case.
Serious complaints or allegations of abuse can be reported to DSD via the toll free number 080 022 0250.