Ronel van Dyk of Uncle Ben’s Den, where several elderly people have died in a matter of days of suspected Covid-19 infections. Picture: Jacques Naude African News Agency (ANA)
Ronel van Dyk of Uncle Ben’s Den, where several elderly people have died in a matter of days of suspected Covid-19 infections. Picture: Jacques Naude African News Agency (ANA)

Claims patients sent to Pretoria West retirement home to die of Covid-19

By Sakhile Ndlazi Time of article published Aug 4, 2020

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Pretoria - Several elderly people have died of suspected Covid-19 infections at a retirement village in Pretoria West. Aged between 50 and 84, they died within eight days after being placed at Uncle Ben’s Den by the Pretoria West Hospital.

The owner of the private retirement village, Ronel van Dyk, claimed the hospital did not want any deaths of elderly people on its records, especially during lockdown, and had thus discharged them. “Most of our residents have been dumped here by family and friends who can’t and don’t want to look after them. But in the past two weeks I’ve been feeling like a dumping site for state hospitals.

“They keep sending patients who shouldn’t have been discharged in the first place because they’re too weak only to die here a few days after being discharged by a doctor,” Van Dyk said.

The Pretoria News saw the list of the people who had died, of which eight were from Pretoria West Hospital.

The retirement home, which houses about 145 residents suffering from dementia, schizophrenia, bipolar disease and HIV, was described as an “organised last stop” by neighbours, who said they had become accustomed to seeing mortuary vans in their street. “During the lockdown those vans have been busy, in and out of Uncle Ben's,” said a neighbour.

Van Dyk said the sight of bodies was not only of concern to neighbours, but was also traumatising other elderly residents who asked if they too were going to die.

“Imagine them seeing numerous people come into the facility only to die in the next seven days. I’m scared for my life too,” Van Dyk said.

She said although they were trying their level best to follow health protocols, they were worried that patients from hospitals could infect other residents at the facility. They have since deep cleansed it and prohibited visits.

“I’m probably going to get a lot of flak from the government, but I will no longer take in patients from Pretoria West and Helen Joseph (hospitals) until convincing and satisfactory communication has been reached between us."

Asked why she took in nine patients in the first place, and whether she was obliged to take them in, Van Dyk replied: “After taking care of elderly people for over 44 years, the hardest thing to do is to turn away an elderly person, no matter what state he/she is in. Where are these poor souls going to go? But this time, especially after these deaths and in the light of the pandemic, I will have to shut my doors,” she said.

“We suspect the elderly patients who have died of Covid-19 were never tested as so many deaths in a short space of time is extremely unusual. It is highly unlikely they all died of natural causes.”

Gauteng Health Department spokesperson Kwara Kekana said patients from Uncle Ben's treated at public facilities had mostly been discharged in a stable condition. He said the majority, if not all, had existing medical conditions.

“They should provide us with the basis of the allegations through the relevant channels so we may adequately deal with the matter."

*For the latest on the Covid-19 outbreak, visit IOL's #Coronavirus trend page.

** If you think you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, please call the 24-hour hotline on 0800 029 999 or visit

Pretoria News

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