Hospice patients in limbo as Nazareth House shuts its Joburg doors
While the centre and Gauteng government squabble, fearful patients say they have nowhere to go
The future is uncertain for 20 hospice patients at the Catholic Church-owned Nazareth House care centre in Yeoville, Johannesburg, who received a notice three weeks ago that its doors would shut at the end of March.
Nazareth House officials have blamed the Gauteng government, saying it had cut its funding by 80%, but the province has denied this.
Nazareth Care African Region chief executive Wayne Devy said it was forced to close after the Gauteng government cut funding.
But Dr Ben Montoedi, acting chief director for health programmes, said it was in fact the hospice that informed the department in January it was ending the service.
“The hospice has in fact been included in the budgeting for contract extensions approved for April to June 2019. The department had to respond to make arrangements for placements of the patients,” said Montoedi.
Devy did not respond to Times Select when asked to clarify.
The centre cares for about 30 HIV/Aids orphans and about 100 elderly people who need frail care. It also treats 3,000 outpatients and has a hospice for 20 terminally ill Aids and TB patients.
The hospice part of the centre is now facing closure.
Devy told Times Select the centre had assured patients it would work closely with the Gauteng health department to ensure a smooth transition.
Devy said it had to close because of the department’s withdrawal of funds to them. He said the money they received from the department covered close to 80% of their running costs.
On March 18, the hospice placed a notice on Facebook informing its community that it would be closing down.
“In addition – the harsh reality of closing a department means we are in the process of staff retrenchments. This is an extremely sensitive time for all involved as it means we need to part ways with some very dedicated people in our team,” reads the notice.
The elderly care facility and children’s home will not be affected and will continue running. Patient Amon Khuboni said it had been an agonising time.
“It’s just been stressful because we were told the hospice is closing down and we have to find our own alternative accommodation.”
He said he had been in and out of the centre at Nazareth House since 2014 owing to his unstable health.
Montoedi said the department had given patients options for placement in government-funded hospices nearby, including the Alex hospice, Edenvale Care Centre and FWC Hospice.
“Patients can also choose from any other of the 11 hospices funded in Gauteng, provided there is space available,” Montoedi said.
Khubuni said he opted to move back to his home and not to the mentioned hospices.
“My problem is that the move is not a permanent solution. We are told that we’ll be housed there for only three months and after that we’ll have to find other accommodation. As you can see, I’m sick and don’t have the energy of moving up and down,” he said.
Another patient, Onyeke Obuasi, said he would move back home, although he did not have anyone to help him.
“I’m much better now. When I came here I couldn’t even walk, but now I can walk. The problem is I went to the Alex hospice and didn’t like its condition. It’s very different to this one and think it will be better for me to move back to my place,” he said.
By last week, only 10 patients had been moved to the Alex hospice while the remaining eight said they didn’t know where and when they would be allocated their new places.
On its website, Nazareth House describes itself as a non-profit, charitable organisation that has served the communities in SA for more than 130 years.
It has several branches across the country, and one in Zimbabwe.