/ 16 February 2001

KZN?s old age home of horrors

DESPITE being caught on video while allegedly abusing and torturing the elderly, a Pietermaritzburg nurse still has her job – and has not been reported to the police by the management of the home.

The Sunnyside Park Home in the Natal Midlands is run by the Pietermaritzburg and Districts Council for the Aged (Padca). The home caters for the elderly who cannot afford expensive private retirement homes and frail-care facilities.

This week it emerged, however, that the management of the home has shocking footage of a nurse deliberately torturing the elderly. In one scene the nurse – described as a ?strapping woman of at least 90kg? – is seen scalding an elderly woman with water. In other scenes she is seen pushing and shoving the residents about the halls.

The footage was taken by hidden video cameras installed inside the home by Padca. Padca board chair Colin Cahill said his institution was one of the few that installed such cameras ?as we are serious about stamping out the abuse of the elderly in our institution.?

According to sources at the home – who asked not to be named – the patient seen on the video was more than 80 years old, bedridden and defenceless. The nurse is seen taking sadistic delight while scalding the desperate and naked woman.

Although the footage was taken some time ago, no action was taken against the nurse. While her actions had been recorded on tape, nobody was given the task of watching the video.

Cahill declined to comment on any of the aspects of the alleged abuse. Executive director of Padca, Margaret van Zyl, said an internal investigation is under way into the alleged incident.

However, the nurse is still in the employ of the home and as yet no criminal case against her has been laid with the police.

Cahill confirmed that the nurse had not been suspended, saying: ?In terms of our labour law you cannot go around suspending people without good solid evidence.? Asked if the video tape did not constitute evidence, Cahill declined to comment.