Legal Aid South Africa has succeeded in getting an interim order instituted against the Department of Social Development regarding the looming closure of the only two state Frail Care Centres in Port Elizabeth. Following an application by the family members of the 239 patients currently housed at the Lorraine Frail Care Centre in Lorraine and the Algoa Frail Care Centre in Bethelsdorp, Legal Aid SA Senior Litigator Advocate Lilla Crouse, instructed by Legal Practitioner Debra Wolmarans argued on behalf of the families of the patients before the Port Elizabeth High Court on 13 December 2016.
Sarah Sephton of the Grahamstown Legal Resources Centre was appointed as curator ad litem for the patients. Also contained in the order is that no patient of the said Frail Care Centres will be moved, discharged or relocated without the written consent of the curator ad litem and that new patients will be admitted to a Centre that has a vacancy for such a new patient, with the consent of the Department, where such consent is not to be unreasonably withheld.
The Department of Social Development has been in a public/private partnership with Life Esidimeni, delivering healthcare services to indigent patients. The Department cancelled the contract with the service provider effective from 31 December 2016 and no new service provider had as yet been appointed. On 1 December 2016, the MEC for Social Development said that they did not have a contingency plan and will move patients of the Lorraine Frail Care Centre and Algoa Frail Care Centre to Port Elizabeth, elsewhere in the Eastern Cape or elsewhere in South Africa. On 5 December, Legal Aid SA issued a letter of demand to the MEC of the Department to extend the contracts with the service provider or face legal action.
The parties will return to court on 23 February 2017 for the Department of Social Development to show cause for why a final order with the remaining following terms should not be granted:
- That the Frail Care Centres will remain operative under the current service provider until such time as the Department of Social Development has appointed a new service provider to render a similar service to the patients and a proper handover between the current and future service provider has occurred;
- That the Department will cover the curator’s reasonable fees and disbursement in fulfilling her duty;
- That once a new service provider has been appointed, the Department shall lodge a report before court, Legal Aid SA and the curator, detailing the timeframes and the process in which the new service provider will take over and the manner in which a proper handover between the current and future service provider will take place, and
- That the Frail Care Centres will not be closed, unless the Department of Social Development ensures that there are 240 beds available for the use of current and/or future frail care patients in Port Elizabeth.
Legal Aid SA is very pleased with this order. We have successfully protected the interests of a particularly vulnerable group in society, ensuring that their voices are heard in their pursuit of justice. Our lawyers continue to fulfill our mandate and uphold human rights; contributing meaningfully to the lives of many every day.
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