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CAPE TOWN - It’s a time of life that most people would rather not think about: when you need high-level care at a nursing home due to age, injury or illness. 

With the Life Esidimeni tragedy still fresh in the minds of the public, a reader raised concern about the services offered by a care facility in Bishopscourt, which he said has operated unregistered for years - and the Department of Social Development is not acting against it.

The reader, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, said he contacted the Auberge Care Facility in the exclusive Cape Town suburb in August last year to enquire about care for his elderly parents, but became concerned when the owner, Alison Goldberg informed him she only had two registered nurses and carers on staff. 

This, despite the facility accommodating up to 20 disabled patients, of varying ages and needs. 

Auberge quoted him a monthly fee per parent of R27,100, which includes nursing care, meals and laundry. Its 25 staff members were “personally trained” by Goldberg, in “all aspects of nursing”, boasts her website.

The reader later discovered Goldberg, who claims to have received her nurse’s training from “St Bartholemews Hospital” (presumably she means St Bartholomew's Hospital in London), had been operating care facilities since 2000.

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Martin (not his real name) wrote to the Department of Social Development in December: 

“It has come to my attention that the Auberge Care Facility in Bishopscourt, Cape Town is not registered… It is a care facility that sees to the various needs of elderly patients, including their medication. Not only is this ethically wrong, but it is dangerous to all patients under their care. What is being done about this?”

His suspicions were confirmed in an emailed response: “The Auberge Care Facility located at 20 Upper Bebington Avenue, Bishopscourt is not registered in terms of the Older Persons Act, No 13 of 2006. The facility does not comply with the prescribed Minimum Norms and Standards for residential facilities in terms of the Older Persons Act, No 13 of 2006 and therefore cannot be registered. The owner, Ms Alison Goldberg is aware. 

The Department of Social Development is in constant communication with her. Can you advice (sic) family members to lodge written complaints with this department in order for it to be investigated please.” Esther Lewis, the head of communications at the department, said: “The facility is currently in the process of registration. To attain registration, facilities must comply with several norms and standards as set out in the Older Person’s Act (see box).”

The Act, Lewis observed, only came into effect on April 1, 2010. Since then, Social Development has been “working with” care facilities to ensure compliance and encourage registration rather than shutting them down.

Goldberg initially ran two other Auberge homes in Oranjezicht and Greenpoint, but closed those before setting up in Bishopscourt. “Once the facility moved, the (registration) process had to be restarted in terms of the new location.

The department cannot issue registration without all of the City clearance/compliance certificates (fire and safety, zoning etc),” Lewis explained. She said prior to 2010, there was no legislation that regulated private residential facilities or frail care centres. “The department has since embarked on registration drives, and has attempted to assist facilities become compliant, in order to achieve registration.”

However, the Act prohibits the operation of unregistered residential facilities, stating: “No person may operate a residential facility unless such facility has been registered … any person who contravenes or fails to comply… is guilty of an offence”.

Lewis told me Auberge initiated registration in 2014, without going into detail about why it’s taken so long, what was hampering the process, or why they were allowed to operate unregistered.

Martin told me: “What stands out for me is that she (Goldberg) has the audacity to charge what she charges when she is… fully aware that her facility is not even registered.”

The director of a top care home in the northern suburbs of Joburg, who declined to be named, said both Social Development and Auberge were at fault: “It’s the same with unregistered crèches and other facilities: they shouldn’t be operating until they receive approval, but they do. And Social Development is not doing its job by ensuring compliance. The fact is, care homes should only be allowed to open once they have their registration certificates on display. You do have to wonder whyit’s taking so long to register.”

Goldberg was defensive from the get-to when I contacted her about the matter, writing: “It’s all a bitof a isn't it especially as you can't prove who you are either. Some of the content of your letter is completely incorrect and liabalous (sic)… Be that as it may if you really are who you say you are You are more than welcome to come and meet with me personally and see first hand what Auberge is and what Auberge does. Please let me know when you will be available. A copy of this letter will be sent to my attorneys.”

Then she wasn’t available to meet until the end of next month, refused to discuss the issue any further and became abusive.

Social Development told me they don’t want to shut care homes down, preferring to “work with” them to ensure compliance and registration. However, that’s in contravention of the act. And unregistered facilities seem to be at liberty to continue operating, with no repercussions. Lewis though does encourage the public to do their homework. “All registered facilities should display the registration certificate in a visible place, or produce it on request. Clients can also phone the department to check on the registration status of private/non-funded facilities.”

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If you, or a loved one, are in need of high-level care, ask how many registered nurses are employed by the home; what their patient-to- carer ratio is; and especially, whether they’re registered with the Department of Social Development – and insist on seeing the proof. Don’t be too trusting. And don’t be fooled by a lovely address in a leafy suburb, or believe a website’s promises.

Box 1:

What are the compliance matters for frail care facilities? The Older Persons Act prescribed a set of norms and standards to ensure that a quality standard of service is being rendered to older persons in a safe and secure environment.

Important compliance matters include the following:

  • Admission procedure must be in place which includes an admission policy, fee structure, information about their services, house rules, complaints procedures as well as a written agreement
  • Buildings/facilities should be safe and accessible
  • Appropriate staffing which should include registered nurses and trained carers who can cope with the health needs of older persons
  • Evidence of the care that’s provided
  • Appropriate policy and procedure documents should also be in place
  • A safe nutritional service

Box 2:

What does the registration process consist of?

  • Facilities should firstly complete and submit an application form
  • Facilities must apply to their local municipality to be assessed in terms of the appropriate bylaws and regulations
  • The department will also complete assessments in terms of the mentioned norms and standards
  • Training and capacity building workshops form part of the process in order to guide and support facilities


Letter 1: Conned by a Facebook ‘friend’

I hope you can help a friend of mine. She’s a paraplegic. She “met” a guy on FB called Eric Thomas who apparently lives in the UK. They became chat friends and he told her that he is sending her a parcel with clothes and jewellery inside (he sent pictures of jewellery). Of course, the parcel never arrived. He told her Customs had scanned the parcel and discovered £20,000 (R340,000) inside and the couriers were asking for money to release the parcel. She withdrew a total of R20,000 after receiving many demands from Thomas and made a number of deposits at the Absa branch to the account of R Ramadisha. I have a cell number for him, but this account has now been closed and it looks like this person has disappeared.  Is not easy for her to get around, being in a wheelchair, I have asked her to open a case with the police.

Terry Moss 

Georgie: It seems she's an unfortunate victim of a 419 scam. Please open a case with the police. With the Fica regulations in place, the account holder should hopefully still be traceable.

Letter 2: Something needs to spark

I hope you will be able to help me sort out this problem I am having with MTN.   On 9 December I renewed my phone contract and was informed that I would receive 10G of data a month for three months. To date I have not received it. I have been a customer of theirs for many years and feel like cancelling all my other contracts with them and going somewhere else as the service I have received is not acceptable. 

I have emailed the branch in i’langa Mall (CORR), Nelspruit where I did the upgrade, phoned them about 50 times even tried the call centre, to no avail. I have been sent a reference number by SMS informing me that the query has been logged and that I should receive an SMS informing me that the data has been loaded on to my phone. I then receive another SMS telling me the problem has been resolved. I then phone the call centre as the manager of the branch where I did the upgrade is never there, they check it out on their screens and say they can see it has been resolved. I ask them that if it had been resolved, would I be phoning? And so, the process starts all over again. 

I was even sent a survey asking if I was happy with the service I received and I told them definitely not and that I would never recommend to any of my friends or family to use MTN. 

I am at my wits’ end with phoning and getting nowhere and I feel that this is just a gimmick to get people in to take out contracts or upgrade their phones.


Letter 3: ‘Call you right back’ but still waiting

Over the Black Friday weekend I applied online for Telkom’s online-only deal and I have been waiting since for someone to call back. When the call centre was contacted numerous times, they could not help since the online department is basically another department. I didn’t mind waiting but yesterday when I called I was told apparently the deal is over. When I requested to speak with the manager, the consultant Phume said he was busy and would call in 20 minutes. It’s been two days and no call. The bad part: had I been notified on time, I would have got another deal or a Christmas deal, now I have none. I googled the matter and there others with the same problem. Could you please advise on the matter?

Ashley Bharath

Georgie: I forwarded the complaint to Telkom and the matter was resolved the same day. Bharath wrote: “I don’t know if you intervened, but Telkom called today and my upgrade was confirmed. That is silly since l would have cancelled my contract based on the call centre’s info.” 

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