Employees and caregivers of Golden Acres Home for the Aged oppose the planned transfer of the facility to Tanay—a town in Rizal province—which is 57 kilometers from Manila, saying that it would only endanger the health and well-being of the elderly, and their own jobs as well.
NOEL SALES BARCELONA
Vol. VIII, No. 32, September 14-20, 2008
The supposed noble intentions of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in planning the transfer of the Golden Acres (GA) Home for the Aged facility to Tanay, Rizal—57 kilometers south of Manila, purportedly for “health considerations” of their clients—were refuted by the caregivers and employees of the said facility.
Currently, the GA facility is found in a one-hectare land in Barangay (village) Bago Bantay in Quezon City, just behind SM North Edsa, a shopping and leisure mall owned and operated by the SM Holdings, Inc., the company of banking and shopping magnate Henry Sy Sr.
For 39 years, Brgy. Bago Bantay was the home of the GA, which now houses 231 poor and abandoned elderly, ages 60 years old and above. Most of them are already sickly and some of them are bedridden, according to GA employees.
Supposedly because of this, the DSWD management decided on Sept. 26, 2007 to transfer the facility to a three-hectare land, near Camp Mateo M. Capinpin—the home of the Philippine Army’s 2nd Infantry Division.
They blamed the pollution in Metro Manila and the overcrowding of the facility for the deteriorating health conditions of the elderly clients.
Social Welfare Assistant Secretary for Luzon Parisya H. Taradji said that the Tanay environment is more conducive to restoring the health of the elderly.
The DSWD had released P180 million (US$3,850,390.92) to fund the construction of the new buildings and boarding houses for the staff and their clients, minus the equipment, Director Marcelo Nicomedes J. Nicomedes, a member of the Technical Working Group created by the DSWD to plan, facilitate and execute the GA transfer, told Bulatlat.
More harm than good
However, the lush-green, pollution-free environment, that the town of Tanay offers for the elderly and for the employees as well, is not tempting at all, said Ramon Felipe E. Loza, president of the Social Welfare Employees Association of the Philippines (Sweap).
Sweap is the association of all the workers of the DSWD from all over the country.
“Our clients are already sickly and the 57-kilometer, three hour ride needed for the transfer would not be good for them,” Loza said in an interview.
Besides, the transfer would entail additional costs for the employees, therefore, would have an adverse effect in their meager wages, he said.
Based on a study released by the Sweap, which is a member of Courage, the cost of transportation alone from Manila to the planned facility is around P100-P200 (US$2.14-$4.28) per day, which is equivalent to one-third of the net salary of a rank-and-file employee of the GA.
“In the current location of the facility in Quezon City, they only spend a small amount for their fare to and from the GA facility and they are able to go home to their families everyday. But in Tanay, it would be impossible. Aside from being separated from their families, the daily travel would adversely affect their performance as workers,” Loza explained.
Because of this, may GA workers may end up being laid off.
In addition, Loza told Bulatlat that even the families and friends of the clients will be affected by the transfer. “The distance will prevent them from visiting their loved ones,” he said.
Transfer could be bad for the clients’ health—expert
On the issue of “transfer for the health considerations of clients”, Sweap’s own study showed that this has no basis. Loza said that the common ailments of residents such as skin diseases, heart problems and hypertension are not pollution-related – contrary to what is claimed by the DWSD.
Another study, presented by Nicamil K. Sanchez, an Academic Fellow of the University of Oxford Post-graduate Studies on Gerontology and Geriatics and a registered social worker himself, showed that the transfer would also cause ill-health for the elderly.
Although Sanchez did not disregard pollution as part of the causes of the deteriorating health of the elderly, he said social isolation could lead to more serious diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
“Social isolation has already been shown to be linked with dementia and Alzheimer’s; and loneliness doesn’t only have an emotional but a physical impact as well,” Sanchez explained.
He added that, since most of the donors are from Metro-Manila, there could also be an effect on the financial status of the GA.
Furthermore, Loza and the Sweap members told Bulatlat that there are no hospitals and other health-related services available in the area, which the DSWD management quickly refuted.
One of the directors of DSWD said that there is a hospital nearby, the Camp Mateo M. Capinpin General Hospital, which is inside the camp and which serves mostly wounded soldiers.
A social worker who used to work for GA told this reporter that apart from having only one nearby hospital where the elderly can be treated, the area on which the new GA facility stands is a frequent scene of encounters between the military and the New People’s Army.
Transfer: for profit, not for service
Loza said that the real reason for the GA transfer is profit. The government, he said, expects to earn from the sale of the Quezon City land on which the GA now stands.
When asked about the possibility of corruption in the selling of the one-hectare land in Quezon City, Loza refused to comment but said it would also be possible.
Sweap fears that the transfer will also deprive the abandoned and neglected senior citizens of Metro Manila of the precious services that the facility provides.
“Considering Metro Manila is the most populated region in the country, the pulling out of the GA from Metro-Manila is synonymous to the Department’s abandonment of its mandate and international commitment relative to the welfare of senior citizens,” a Sweap position paper stated.
Meanwhile, Asst. Sec. Florita R. Villar suggested that more studies about the possible effects of the transfer would be conducted but told Sweap members to welcome change.
“Maybe, the new Tanay facility can be a new haven for our clients. We mustn’t be close-minded about development,” she said.
Villar also said that the TWG must also conduct further studies about the health conditions of the elderly, plus a survey of employees to be able to do what is necessary.
“We must have the complete list of employees who are ready to be transferred in Tanay and those who are not. Even among our clients, we must know who is fit for transfer and who’s not,” she furthered.
“The real intent of the transfer is the privatization of the prime land where the GA is,” Loza concluded. (Bulatlat.com)