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Speech Notes: Adjustment Budget – Provincial Legislature, Bhisho, 30 November 2016

BY Bobby Stevenson, DA Shadow MEC for Finance

A budget is not just a collection of figures but underpins the policy direction of government. The Democratic Alliance cannot support the adjustment budget for Social Development as no provision is made for the ongoing funding of the Algoa Frail Care Centre and the Lorraine Frail Care Centre that are subcontracted out. These centres are scheduled to close on the 31st of December when the province cuts the funding. 
 
My colleague Kobus Botha, the DA Shadow MEC for Social Development has raised the issue with the department and the MEC to try and get clarity as to the processes involved.  There are 240 residents of these state subsidised institutions who need specialised care. Some of the residents are blind, in a coma, have aggressive dementia, are intellectually disabled, have diabetes, hypertension and immobile. They are in need of specialised care and cannot simply be de-institutionalised.
 
These are the only places where patients that are dependent on the state can go in Port Elizabeth. There is no other NPO that I am aware of that can suddenly take on work of such a scale in the next 5 weeks.
 
The shock decision to not renew the contract with the Life Healthcare Group has caused huge concern in the spiritual, medical and welfare community in Port Elizabeth. Let alone the distress caused to the families involved.
 
On November the 24th, this is what Bishop Bethlehem Nopece was quoted as saying in The Herald Newspaper:
“Here we were thinking that the government was a caring government – which is what the celebration of Christmas is all about. It is about love, compassion and care he said. We are imploring the department to change its mind and find funding. This society will never be healthy if we are constantly plagued by such actions. Let me be very clear, we are opposed to what is going on here; these are the actions of an uncaring government”.
 
The question that is on everybody’s mind is what is going to happen to the occupants  on the 31st of December, many of which don’t have families and will have to be uprooted from a loving and caring community that they have been part of for up to 30 years.  
 
Why has the government decided that this option for people with special needs, is no longer viable?
 
What has caused this policy shift? This is a puzzle as the Life Esidimeni Group is still running an institution contracted through the Department of Health in Kirkwood. How is it that this model was sustainable yesterday and no longer today?
 
Is it because government negotiated an unsustainable contract when it renewed the contract with the service provider in January 2015? I am informed that in 2014 the subsidy was R8 000 per head and after that, it changed to R16 000 per head for the 2015/16 years. The MEC must tell us whether or not these facts are correct.
 
I understand the new offer for NPOs is R4000 per head per month plus 90% of their government pension.  Nappies alone can cost R1 000 a month.  This service can never be provided at that figure. 
 
Government should then, if the price is no longer affordable, renegotiate a contract so that these centres are able to at least remain open.
 
Right now I am informed that there are a number of patients in Livingstone Hospital that are waiting to be transferred to these frail care centres which can no longer take them. It is estimated that the costs are in the region of R800 a day to keep a patient in Livingstone Hospital.
 
Many of the occupants of these frail care centres will need to be taken to hospital in the absence of any other institution to care of them and at what cost? This is going to cause bottlenecks in our healthcare system.
Honourable Speaker, we are also informed that people are being visited by the Department of Social Development asking them to sign forms that could result in their loved ones being transferred anywhere in South Africa. How cruel can you be?
There is also a great concern that the 36 deaths that occurred in Gauteng could be repeated in Port Elizabeth if patients do not receive proper care.
 
When I visited these two institutions with the Honourable Kobus Botha, I asked the personnel present whether there were any similarities between some of the patients in Gauteng and some here in the Eastern Cape, I was told that there were.
 
I cannot stand here today in good conscience and not raise the plight of some of the most disadvantaged members of our society, 70% of which are black and coloured that are currently staying in those institutions. My oath of office and my commitment to the constitution and Bill of Rights enjoins me to raise this issue today.
 
Let us not turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to these poor people. They do not have powerful voices to stand up and speak for themselves; they can only appeal to our hearts and conscience.
 
I am appealing to the fact that there has been no coherent explanation from the department as to the way forward and what processes are going to be followed and where these people are going to go, and who the new NPO is that is going to take over this service. 
 
In the absence of such a plan, I can only conclude that this is a heartless and cruel act that is inhumane in the extreme. They are potentially facing a gross abuse of human rights that will come to haunt the conscience of every member of this House unless the situation is stopped.
 
I cannot stand here today and say nothing when people could potentially lose their lives.
 
I am appealing to the Premier Phumulo Masualle and I am appealing to the MEC Nancy Sihlwayi to urgently review this situation and get first-hand knowledge and consult the experts.  Change your course of action. Keep these frail care centres running. Keep those communities intact. For God’s sake hear the cries of the people.
 
At the very least, extend the contract as was done in Gauteng for a period until a needs assessment, proper audit and handover plan is in place.  The applications for NPOs only closed on the 21st of November, how can this possibly all happen in five weeks?  Including the transfers of pensions?  It’s impossible.  This is a disaster in the making.  Lives are at stake. 
 
Let me conclude with a quote from Hubert H Humphrey who said the following: “It is once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly and those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
 
This is a moral test for your government Honourable Premier and Honourable MEC.

 November 30, 2016
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