A service industry under siege!
The demise of care centres in RSA


Many are suffering from Empty Bed Syndrome!


The pandemic, coupled with an attempted ‘revolution,’ has left many frail care homes/ and care centres in a very vulnerable position. Some challenges that they are currently facing are as follows:


  • Many Non-profit, and traditional long term care centres, have vacancies in excess of 35%! (Long term, this is financially unsustainable!)
  • Some have been forced to close some of their frail care facilities.
  • Others have arranged to share a single FC facility between say, three retirement estates.
  • Organisations are tending towards in-cottage, and assisted living care… in essence a form of ageing-in-place (But in ZA not by choice! The AIP model is being forced on organisations by affordability issues).
  • They are being forced to reduce; or in some cases even stop, caring for State pensioners. (Mostly on the basis that the State has for years not contributed sufficiently to the cost of their care).
  • They are being forced to demedicalise their frail care centre staffing i.e. They are finding innovative, but regrettably not always kosher ways, in which to reduce staffing costs. (Mainly that of registered nurses salaries).
  • They are unable to compete with smaller unregistered private care homes, which are seldom, if ever, subject to State scrutiny, and consequently, seldom comply with required legislative norms. It is not a level playing field, and this too contributes to empty beds.
  • Some developers, especially those catering for the very wealthy, have bitten off more than they can chew! Thinking that they were still riding the crest of the retirement accommodation wave, some have invested in large luxury facilities, which as a result of Covid (and now also the ‘2021 revolution’) are difficult to fill.
  • Many families have suffered an economic loss; their businesses may have closed; they may have lost their jobs and as a result – they can no longer afford to contribute to their elderly parent’s accommodation!
  • Some families (especially after the recent looting and anarchy), may emigrate; some taking their parents with them. Others may have simply decided to, in future, care for them at home? All of which adds to the empty bed burden!
  • Many staff and Trustees have been subjected to emotional and verbal abuse by seniors and their families, who resent their parents being locked down without parole; or even occasional y bail relief?


One could go on and on, but suffice to say that our service industry is in dire straits.

This was the case even prior to Covid and looting, but recent events have sounded even louder alarm bells… for which many have no immediate answers. It is now a case of adapt or die, and this will take a lot of innovation and cooperative endeavour on our part to correct!

Henry Spencer
(July 2021)