Families left high and dry after Tembisa Old Age Home closes for renovations

2019-07-15 07:30
An elderly woman. (Getty/Gallo Images)

An elderly woman. (Getty/Gallo Images)

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Families of people residing at the Tembisa Old Age Home in Gauteng, have had to collect their elderly relatives from the facility while it undergoes extensive renovations.

The decision to repair the home in the north of Kempton Park on the East Rand, was made after a report revealed it was "non-compliant", board member Ben Sebola told News24 recently. 

The centre was launched in 2014 and has been running with the assistance of the Department of Social Development, which provides funding. 

Things took a turn around June when the department informed the home that it would not be re-signing a contract with it because of compliance issues, Sebola said. 


Sebola said observers from the City of Ekurhuleni Municipality assessed the building and that's when they were told that a compliance certificate needed to be issued and that renovations needed to be done for that to happen. 

"Because there is no funding, we had to advise the families to come and at least take their family members because there is now no money and there is nothing we can do. This is not a permanent setup.

"We do have their details, and as soon as they are done renovating the centre, we will call them," said Sebola.

While beneficiaries are in the care of their families, refunds will be paid to them so that the families can support them financially.

'We sympathise with the families'

This includes facilitating pension grant funds paid to the organisation for the beneficiaries. 

"What is going to happen, the people will have to communicate with the admin office and every month their money will be paid directly to them so that they can buy food at home." 

The families were given until Friday, July 12 to remove their loved ones from the facility.

The social development department had been asked to accommodate 10 residents without families at alternative homes until renovations are complete, Sebola said. 

"We sympathise with the families, but by law, we cannot keep people there. It is very dangerous, and we do not want to experience another Life Esidimeni again," he said.

Sebola said since the home opened its doors, there had been no issues with the building until recently. 

'There is nothing I can do'

Sixty-three-year-old Susan Kubyana who is disabled herself, told News24 that she has been forced to take her 83-year old mother in, even though she can barely take care of her herself. 

"There is nothing I can do, and I have asked a helper to help me with her here at home. She cannot do anything for herself. She needs to be fed and needs assistance going to the toilet," she said. She said when she was called to a meeting last Saturday, she was shocked as it was short notice for her. 

Kubyana said she plans not to take her mother back to the home because she feels it would be futile.

Another family member, who wanted to remain anonymous, said she had recently taken her mother to the home but expressed that she was not happy with the service.

She said while there had been issues with funding, nurses taking care of the elderly had neglected them. She told News24 that when she had questioned the home manager, she was told that they were on a go-slow. 

"I haven't really been happy with what I had seen so far. Because of also the lack of the payments, we were not sure that this closure is entirely based on them doing the renovations. Or is the place going to shut down but they don't know how to tell us," she said. 

Health and safety risk

She did not understand why everyone was being evacuated instead of the renovations being conducted wing by wing.

The Gauteng social development department confirmed that an inspection done at the building by the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality concluded the facility was "non-compliant". 

Departmental spokesperson Motsamai Motlhaolwa said the department had been monitoring the facility on an ongoing basis to ensure compliance to Norms and Standards of the Older Persons Act No 13 of 2006 and protection of the rights of Older Persons at the facility.

"The department held meetings with the facility manager and management board wherein a joint decision was taken to vacate the facility as it was a health and safety risk for older persons," he said.

He added that parties involved agreed to temporarily vacate the building. 

Motlhaolwa said occupants are expected to be returned to the facility as soon as it is declared safe for occupation and the Municipality Occupation Certificate is issued.

Matlhaolwa said the Tembisa Old Age Home was one of the Gauteng provincial government's 20 Prioritised Townships Programme projects initiated in 2007.   

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  elderly

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