A third resident at Cape Town’s Nazareth House for the aged has died of Covid-19, the facility said on Wednesday.
CEO Wayne Devy said this was in spite of the extreme measures that Nazareth House had introduced to protect its residents and staff from the coronavirus even before the lockdown began.
News24 reported on Tuesday that, by 8 May, two residents had died, while four residents and 11 staff members had tested positive.
Devy on Wednesday said Nazareth House is well-known for its homes for the elderly, the disabled, and abandoned children, with facilities in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Port Elizabeth, as well as Vredehoek and Elsies River in Cape Town.
When the coronavirus first emerged in South Africa, and because of the residents’ vulnerability, Nazareth House implemented a wide range of sanitising and physical distancing measures, and friends and family were not allowed to visit.
Based on what it knew about the virus, measures included:
– Various non-essential staff members were placed on ‘temporary lay-off’ to reduce the number of people entering the premises and, therefore, reduce the risk of infection in the facility;
– Essential staff were requested, where possible, to isolate themselves in the facility in which they were employed;
– Arrangements were made to accommodate essential staff members to be housed within the facility, in order to avoid the spread of the coronavirus;
– All essential staff members, who could not be accommodated in the facility, including suppliers and service providers, were screened daily before entry to the facility.
Devy added: “All of our facilities were placed in a complete lockdown. These measures have continued throughout the national lockdown period, and remain in existence, to date.”
He noted that many of the residents in their care are also terminally ill, with existing medical conditions and comorbidities.
Comorbidities is a term used to describe other illnesses which may complicate a person’s recovery if infected by the virus – such as diabetes, hypertension and heart problems.
Devy said they were aware of the seriousness of the virus and have done everything in their power to protect residents and staff.
“Unfortunately, we, along with the rest of the world, are sailing in unchartered waters, and notwithstanding all the stringent rules imposed by management during this lockdown period, on 28 April, 2020, one of our residents, residing in The Villa, which is our dementia care facility situated in Cape Town, passed away.
“This particular resident was terminally ill. As a precaution, the resident was tested for Covid-19, whereby the test results came back positive.”
After the first death, movement of residents and staff was even further restricted and a deep clean took place.
An investigation was carried out to trace who had been in contact with the person who died; such contacts were tested for Covid-19 and placed in quarantine.
The remaining residents of The Villa were tested for Covid-19 and three more tested positive.
They were placed in isolation, but one of those residents also died.
The Villa has 76 staff members who attend to the residents. Forty-seven have, so far, been tested and 13 have tested positive.
The CEO said the lack of testing kits, and the delay in receiving the test results, has not helped. It also made staff and families anxious and panicked.
Nazareth House also has another facility, which cares for the elderly in Cape Town, but is not part of the dementia care unit.
On 8 May, a terminally ill resident died, and it was discovered that she, too, had tested positive for Covid-19.
She had shown no symptoms of the coronavirus.
After her death, decontamination and isolation within that facility also followed.
Devy said Nazareth House has contacted the government for help in testing the staff, and getting the results as quickly as possible. It is also in constant contact with doctors and other professionals for assistance.
“Although we are a non-profit organisation, we have spared no cost in trying to protect all the residents and staff, during this Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
There has been no outbreak of the coronavirus at other Nazareth House facilities, but with the Western Cape showing such high numbers of Covid-19 cases, Devy noted that it is not improbable.
Joshua Chigome, spokesperson for the provincial MEC for social development Sharna Fernandez, said they are working with all old age homes under their purview during this time.
The department funds Nazareth House.
“We are, however, working closely with the board of directors of all old age homes, in terms of implementing their infectious disease policy and disaster management plans,” said Chigome.
On Tuesday, the distraught daughter of a well-known resident at The Villa expressed the fear that her father might contract the virus, after the first case came to light, News24 reported.The daughter lives abroad, but is unable to travel due to the lockdown travel restrictions, and cannot be at her father’s bedside.