Rich and poor in same boat as W Cape struggles to register care homes
From Bishopscourt to Langa, facilities blame 'stringent and nonsensical regulations'
When you walk into Auberge in Bishopscourt, you may be forgiven for thinking it’s a boutique hotel. Across Cape Town, the Ikhaya Labantu Intermediate Homecare Facility in Langa looks more like a makeshift hospital.
What these starkly different frail-care homes have in common is that they are among 93 frail-care and old-age homes in the Western Cape that are unregistered with the provincial social development department.
The department told Times Select it was “concerned” that almost half of similar facilities in the province are unregistered, but the homes blamed “stringent and nonsensical regulations” which they said made compliance with the law almost impossible.
A stainless steel kitchen was compulsory, for example, and the department prescribed which cleaning products should be used and insisted on laundries having two doors – one to bring in dirty linen, the other to take it out.
Thulisile Nhlapo, spokesperson for social development minister Susan Shabangu, said the regulations were there to deal with safety, health and environmental hazards.
Cayla Murray, spokesperson for Western Cape social development MEC Albert Fritz, said a “developmental approach” was being considered when dealing with unregistered facilities such as the 15-bed Auberge, which charges residents R27,000 a month.
She said it failed to meet the minimum norms and standards for residential facilities set out in the 2006 Older Persons Act because it did not have a registered nurse to dispense scheduled medicines, infection control measures were poor and staff were not properly trained to deal with clinical emergencies.
Murray was unsure why the Ikhaya Labantu home was non-compliant, but owner Nobuntu Nkanyuza said: “The requirements are so stringent that it’s like people who run community projects must just stop and close shop.”
She said that despite submitting a number of forms and supporting documents to the department, her facility remained unregistered and therefore could not receive government funding.
Auberge owner Alison Goldberg said she tried to register the home when she opened in 2014 but the department’s slow pace and rigid specifications had bedevilled her application.
“Officials told me they want to help facilities that run successfully. They don’t want to close you down. In our case I did everything they asked to bring the building in line with department recommendations, but I’ve since realised that registration is not an easy process and it’s very costly,” she said.
“They come and there may be something that’s not right … maybe you don’t have enough emergency bells or not enough fire extinguishers. They tell you to get that right for the next inspection,” she said.
Goldberg, who has had four inspections in the past year, said that while in 2014 there was no requirement to have a stainless steel kitchen, she was told to get one in 2018.
Nkanyuza, who has run her 34-bed frail-care facility since 2013, said if it were not for funding from Cape Town NGO Ikamva Labantu, which paid for renovations, “it would have taken us another 20 years to comply”.
She said the social development department “will interrogate you until you throw in the towel. My services are coming to the aid of the government. I look after elderly people who previously stayed under trees and in old cars, but there is no recognition for that. Instead I’m labelled as an illegal establishment.”
Despite her home being unregistered, social workers at major public hospitals regularly sent her patients. “That’s where I get confused. The same government that says you are not compliant brings patients here.”
Nkanyuza said the R950 a month she charges patients is not enough for food, transport, staff salaries and daily needs such as nappies.
Saadiqah Saffodien from Ikamva Labantu said that while “processes and systems” were important, the least national and provincial departments could do was to help homes financially to ensure they complied.
Allan Thumbo, research adviser at the SA Human Rights Commission, said unregistered homes were a national problem. “The concern about the issue is that unregistered homes are not monitored and no one knows what is happening in those homes … whether the dignity and human rights of the elderly are respected or not.”