BULAWAYO - Named Ekuphumuleni, which in the Ndebele language translates to Place of Peace, this Geriatric Nursing Home does indeed exude an air of tranquillity about it. In fact, it has the usual characteristics one would expect to encounter at such a place. Yet that is where similarities with institutions like it end.
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The remarkable feature, one immediately notices about this home is the attitude of dedication and professionalism with which staff go about their duties which, in many instances, is not at all an easily achievable feat.
As part of its renowned social responsibility endeavours, ZDDT dispatched its Field Correspondent to discover more about the institution; its achievements, challenges and needs, with a view to affording this Home a chance to be profiled on its website.
Founded twenty five years ago, by concerned citizen and retired nurse, Mrs. Poliana Mahlangu, Ekuphumuleni Geriatric Nursing Home, situated four kilometres north-west of the City Centre along the Old Victoria Falls Road, is properly organised, constituted and registered. Mrs. Mahlangu’s, concern arose from her discovery that most families in the City’s disadvantaged neighbourhoods could not effectively deal with elderly infirm people, hence the establishment of this internationally recognised welfare institution.
Retired teacher, Mrs. Sibusisiwe M. Khumalo who is the Institution’s Chief Administrator, runs a tight ship at the Centre.
The Home’s main interventions revolve around caring for the elderly infirm who, after being discharged from health centres, often land up in situations where they receive little or no attention at all.
It trains geriatric care aides and the community on how to care for the affected people, besides providing home based and day care for the elderly in need of such services. Ekuphumuleni also contributes towards the formulation of policy pertaining to the care of the elderly in Zimbabwe.
In its institutional care programme, the Centre accepts aged patients who may stay for three to six months, while its home based care initiative ensures that the elderly, in need, are looked after for as long as is necessary. The day care facility at the Home provides physiotherapy and occupational therapy besides allowing the aged to socialise with their peers.
Although it relies heavily upon assistance from well-wishers, Ekuphumuleni seeks to contribute towards meeting its expenses through various income generating initiatives. Patients are expected to pay boarding fees amounting to USD$40.00 a person per month, while relatives are required to provide USD$15.00 worth of groceries for each of their loved ones. It is sad to note however, that even though these figures amount to relatively small sums, most families are unable to raise them, thereby forcing the Home to pick up the tab, since it feels obliged to ensure that no-one is cast out onto the streets.
The Institution does better however, through the sale of produce from its chicken breeding, egg producing and market gardening projects, though income realised is hardly adequate for its needs. During special fund raising days set aside by the authorities for the benefit of the Home, the public is encouraged to assist by giving donations in cash or kind. In this regard there have, in the past, been positive responses by individuals, businesses and charitable organisation to appeals for help. These have come in the form of cash, groceries and other means.
Essential expenses at Ekuphumuleni Geriatric Nursing Home are enormous and can hardly be met by the institution. Under normal circumstances, the Ministry of Social Services would provide an annual grant toward patients’ upkeep, but due to the prevailing adverse national economic situation, such assistance is not forthcoming. The Ministry of Health and Child Welfare provides salaries for the Centre’s 2 State Registered Nurses and 21 nursing assistants, though the administration staff must look to donors for their remuneration needs. Grants from the City of Bulawayo have since ceased due to the aforementioned economic difficulties that have affected every single charitable institution in the Country.
The Home’s needs are many, though priority should be given to the purchase of a new ambulance. The old one gave up the ghost years ago and has not been replaced, with the consequence that an open backed lorry is now used to ferry aged patients to health centres for review of their cases or specialist treatment.
The Centre’s own clinic which receives assistance from medical practitioners, who give their services free of charge, is inadequately stocked with equipment or medicines and is appealing for help that would meet shortfalls in these areas.
Laundry days at Ekuphumuleni pose a serious challenge to staff who are required to hand wash soiled linen because the Home’s two washing machines have broken down. An industrial washing machine will be needed in order for this difficulty to be rectified.
The administration office is in sore need of updated IT equipment and at least one more personal computer, while the kitchen requires a refrigerator, new cupboard, crockery and slip resistant ceramic floor tiles. The tuckshop needs refrigeration equipment and a microwave oven.
In the patients’ wards, sheets, blankets, mattresses, beds and 2 toilet chambers will be needed, while a heavy duty sewing machine is required for the recreational room. Also required is garden and irrigation equipment and the caretaker would need a handyman’s toolkit.
Chief community leader for Ward 8 in the disadvantaged Mzilikazi Township, where the Home is located, is Cllr. Sibanda. He keeps his communication lines with the Centre open and is always willing to facilitate in any charitable interventions relating to Ekuphumuleni.
During an impassioned plea on the Institution’s behalf, Mrs. Khumalo said; “Traditionally, people tend to give scant regard to the needs of the aged. To my staff and me, these patients and indeed all elderly people in need of our services, are very special people. I plead to all well-wishers to open up their hearts and hands in order that this Institution may be able to continue imparting the essential services, for which it has become internationally and locally renowned.”
You could play your part in saving this vital Institution by responding to this appeal, making use of the following contact details:
Ekuphumuleni Geriatric Nursing Home,
P. O. Box 1667,
Telephone: +263 9 216877. Mobile: +263 772 953 515