Grassy Park care centre probed

A copy of the letter to the De Wet family.

The Department of Social Development is investigating the validity of a Grassy Park centre to ascertain whether the facility is equipped to take care of patients who are mentally handicapped or ill.

The legitimacy of the Grassy Park Centre was brought to the department’s attention when relatives of a man who sustained fatal injuries at the facility made enquiries about it.

Herman de Wet, 55, was found in one of the rooms of the Grassy Park Care Centre, which is advertised as a home for the mentally and intellectually challenged, (“Centre faces heat”, Southern Mail, February 21) on Wednesday December 6. He died 10 days later at Groote Schuur Hospital as a result of his injuries.

The man suspected of murdering Mr De Wet, who was also a resident at the facility, was admitted to Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital and a case of murder is being investigated by Grassy Park police.

Mr De Wet’s family questioned the facility’s validity after his death, saying the residents were left unattended and that staff at the facility were not equipped to take care of patients with mental illnesses.

Mr De Wet was mentally disabled and, according to his family, had the mental capacity of a two year old. In 2009 the family entrusted the facility to take care of Mr De Wet as he needed care 24/7.

In the correspondence from the department, which is in the Southern Mail’s possession, it confirmed an investigation was conducted and the facility was found not to be registered with the Department of Social Development or the Department of Health.

The letter, which the Southern Mail has in its possession, states: “They are therefore not capacitated to deal with patients who have been diagnosed with mental illness.”

It also stated that the case manager will report to the Department of Social Development’s provincial office recommending the facility be closed with immediate effect.

Darryn Allan, acting deputy director for the Department of Social Development, said as a result of the probe the department activated teams together with sister departments for further investigation.

“Yes, this letter does come from our department and as a result we have activated teams together with our sister departments for further investigation (which is currently under way as mentioned earlier.”

Mr Allan said the facility is registered as a non profit organisation (NPO) with the national Department of Social Development under the name Fisher Moravian Home, but is not registered with nor funded by the provincial Department of Social Development.

Mr De Wet’s brother, Richard de Wet, said the findings are unacceptable. “If we knew what we know now, we would never have taken my brother to the Grassy Park Centre. Both my brother and the man suspected of assaulting my brother are mentally handicapped and mentally ill and the staff were not equipped or capable to take care of them.

They advertise as a registered facility and that was the only reason we put Herman in their care,” he said.

Mr De Wet said the family is in the process of seeking legal assistance. “Someone needs to be held accountable. Someone needs to take responsibility for the death of my brother. The facility is more worried about their reputation than my brother’s death,” said Mr De Wet.

Siva Moodley, a DA proportional representative (PR) councillor for Ward 67 and a board member of the centre, denied that the facility is not registered.

“We do not get any funding from the Department of Social Development but as far as we are aware we are registered with the Department of Health. The necessary assessments were done and our licence was renewed, we do not however have sufficient staff,” said Mr Moodley.

“Why would we operate if we are not licensed? We take care of people whose families are not able to care for them 24 hours a day and 7 days a we week. We never received any complaints, it is only after the incident with Herman that all this surfaced. We have been doing good work and offering affordable care for these families. If the department wants to close the facility down then patients have to be placed or relocated to other facilities,”said Mr Moodley.

Mr Moodley provided the Southern Mail with a licence from the Department of Health for the facility to be run as a community mental health facility. It was issued in December last year and is valid until December this year.

According to the document they are permitted to house up to 50 patients at a time and only adults over the age of 18. .