The government’s decision to stop subsidising old people’s homes was clearly counterproductive and consequences of that move are too ghastly to contemplate.
Bulawayo’s two main old people’s homes are already reeling from that unfortunate government policy reversal made in July 2012 as they are struggling to cater for inmates.
Ever since the government suspended the subsidies, the institutions have been finding it difficult to pay staff on time and there are reports workers go for as long as three months without pay.
Ekuphumuleni Geriatric Home and Entembeni Old People’s Home now have to survive on donations, which are also hard to come by due to the harsh economic environment in the country.
It is mind boggling that the government thought removing safety nets for the elderly was an option under any circumstances.
The government has a responsibility to ensure that the vulnerable, including the aged who are not able to fend for themselves, are protected through safety nets.
If the government finds it fit to pay war veterans pensions every month, what stops it from paying reasonable stipends to inmates at old people’s homes?
The two institutions have indicated that they have the capacity to embark on income generating projects as they have fowl runs that can keep thousands of chicken, but are not being utilised due to lack of capital.
The corporate world and the government can take advantage of this infrastructure to help the institutions fend for themselves, while measures are being put in place to resuscitate the subsidies.
Donations are welcome, but they would never be sustainable for the institutions that need to plan ahead in terms of budgets and medical provisions for the inmates.
It is critical that the government takes a leading role in the care for the society’s aged instead of taking a back seat as is the case right now.
The conditions at Ekuphumeleni and Entembeni are of serious concern and authorities should act without delay to alleviate the plight of the elderly.