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SAVF Huis Ermelo: Families speak out after allegations surface

In response to Basson's video, some residents and their families have approached Highvelder with alarming statements and first-hand complaints.

Reports of neglect, mismanagement and residents receiving substandard food portions had been made during a Faceook Live video by the community activist, Juliet Basson, against the old age home that offers housing for the aged and frail.

This sparked a Highvelder investigation, culminating in an on-site visit to Huis Ermelo on April 11.

The paper exclusively details the allegations made against the establishment, their response and the outcome of the publication’s visit to the premises.

ALSO READ: SAVF Huis Ermelo denies all allegations against it

In response to Basson’s video, some residents and their families have approached Highvelder with alarming statements and first-hand complaints.

Two family members of former residents shared their experiences.

Eugene van der Westhuizen’s mother, Maria Susanna van der Westhuizen, resided in SAVF Huis Ermelo from October 2021 until April 2022.

According to Eugene, the residents have been complaining about the staff’s heavy-handedness, but nothing was done about it.

He also alleged that his mother, a diabetic, had not received due consideration.

He claimed that although they were aware of her diagnosis, SAVF Huis Ermelo kept adding sugar to her porridge and beverages.

The family eventually asked for a sign to be placed at her bed to indicate she is diabetic. According to Eugene, this was only done three months later. Meanwhile, diabetic treats and sweeteners were allegedly stolen from his mother’s bedside cabinet.

While previous management confirmed that residents would be taken to the hospital by bus if and when necessary, Eugene claimed the new management had said they had to arrange her transport to the hospital for a procedure.

Eugene said he had tried to meet with the manager multiple times, but that she was always too busy to do so.

Late Maria Susanna van der Westhuizen. Photos | Supplied

They managed to secure appointments on two occasions, but he recalls being informed that she was busy with Zoom meetings and could not tend to them.

When the required five packs of diapers for his mother were suddenly increased to 10, Eugene took this up with management.

According to him, the manager said the personnel probably used them for those residents who didn’t have any.

This, he said, was not investigated, nor were they offered credit. When his mother asked staff to assist her to go to the bathroom, their reported response was that she was wearing a nappy.
The family was incredibly upset to learn that staff would threaten his mother with moving her to the Alzheimer’s unit “because she was difficult.”

Eugene said on a few occasions, upon him arriving at the facility, they would fetch her from
that unit.

Eugene said when their complaints kept falling on deaf ears and while the staff’s rudeness persisted, the Van der Westhuizens decided to take their mother out of Huis Ermelo.

The law firm Van Rensburg, Koen & Baloyi said on behalf of Raubenheimer regarding Eugene’s writing: “We could find no proof of any complaint submitted regarding these complaints.”

They also sent a letter to the publication stating that the complainant was impressed with the services at SAVF Huis Ermelo.

The letter was sent to Eugene. He responded: “The content of the letter is completely taken out of context, as it was sent to the regional manager in 2021, before the current manager took office. This is a clear attempt by them to cover up.”

Zani Stapelberg wrote a heart-wrenching letter following the death of her grandmother, Sina Bornman. (The letter has been translated to English.)

My darling gran, Sina Bornman

There is pain in my heart; my eyes are tired. I was not ready to say goodbye like this. I am so incredibly sorry that your last few months on Earth were hell.

I wish I could turn back time, but all I can do now is to tell your story in the hope that other children and grandchildren think twice before placing their grandmothers and grandfathers in SAVF’s old age home.

I am sorry your mouth was covered in yellow and rotting by the time you were admitted to hospital after days of being unable to eat.

I initially thought you may have been full of nonsense, but then the dietician rushed to clean your mouth with bicarbonate of soda.

I realised how serious things were. She explained that you would not have been able to eat – your mouth was in such a state that anything you ate would have tasted of rot. When I learnt this, my heart broke.

Ouma, you were literally emaciated because you could not eat! When we asked the home for your toothbrush, there was no such thing in your frail care room. You were unable to eat for days, and what hurts me the most is that nobody was trying to feed you!

Ouma, you were bedridden, but you tried to feed yourself – so much so that your nails were left covered in food and dirty. You were flat on your back and helpless, trying to survive.

Zani Stapelberg’s grandmother, the late Sina Bornman.

Boeta would drive at night to fill up your water bottle. How many times did I not beg: “Please just fill up her water bottle?” How many days did you have to endure without a drop of water?
I am so sorry about the time my visit was cut short.

The lady two rooms away had fallen onto the cold tiles. I could not ignore her cries for help and went to the sister’s station across from her room, begging them to help her, to pick her up.

I am so sorry that I could not sit with you longer to clean your nails, brown from dirt.

Ouma, I know you deserved a clean and neat home. This was why we tried taking turns to tidy up your room and to empty your always overflowing dustbin.

It broke me to see, time and time again, that your medication had dropped onto the filthy floor.

To date, nobody could explain why no one ensured you took your pills.

Why did nobody help you when it fell to the ground?

I can only imagine how frustrating it must have been … you were bedridden and unable to pick it up yourself.

I know you tried to complain, but your complaints were brushed off as “your own fault”.

I am so sad, but find gratefulness in the fact that I can tell your story. I can apologise to you and know you will never again be picked on in that home of hell.

I wish I had rather taken you to SAVF Hendrina, but we believed the promises of Ermelo’s new management!

We believed you would be treasured like gold and that you would receive the best service and assistance!

We paid a terrible price in exchange for promises. Mum and dad could not take you in – they are no longer young.

Boeta and I work full-time and would not have been able to take care of you 24 hours a day. Ouma, I regret we did not know what awaited you there!

You were literally left at the old age home to die.

New paint and curtains, beautified rooms and beautiful promises were not what you experienced! 2022 was your last year; you were hospitalised on May 31, 2022.

The doctor said he would not send you back there as you were in a terrible condition, and they were not taking care of you.

Jesus came to fetch you on June 2, 2022.

I do not know whether this was your time to go, but the doctor could not get your infection count to decrease.

This was because of the bacteria in your mouth that had infected your entire body!

Ouma, I know you are free of pain with Jesus, but did you have to be abused like that, in so much pain before your death? Was that what we paid for?

We can never bring Ouma back!

I cannot even tell you I am sorry.

All I can do is to save other grandmothers and grandfathers with the story of your last few months.

All I can do to make the pain and awfulness better is to share your truth; the hell you had endured!

If only this could help one person to think twice before placing a loved one in that building, then at least your suffering will have been worth something!

I am sorry I could not speak up earlier. I was too occupied with watching my grandmother emaciate; watching her die.

We love you, Ouma. This is my last letter to you, Oumie.

I am sorry, Ouma.

According to the SAVF’s attorneys, the complaint was investigated and discussed with the complainant by Roos and Louw.

They claim the complainant expressed her gratitude and concluded that all matters were addressed to her satisfaction.

The feedback report was dated June 21, 2022. No fault on the SAVF’s side could be found, and the complainant accepted and agreed that the finding was correct.

The matter was consequently solved.

A family member responded to the attorneys’ statement and said: “My recollection was that Roos had phoned me and profusely apologised for what had happened to my mother. I was also upset that Sieberhagen and Nel, who were responsible for the care of our loved one, never contacted me to extend an apology from their side.”

According to the family member, there were no investigations to her knowledge.

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