All was white noise and confusion regarding brother Fraser Esslemont's Bedlam fees. Pietermaritzburg Mental Health Society had read a lot into my July 2008 letter which had queried increased fees. Pmb Mental Health Soc's August 2008 reply:
"In response to your letter please take note of the following:
1. Your dissatisfaction in noted.
2. Fees are increased every year for all residents of the Society. [Residents!]
3. The fees that are charged are the same for all residents who receive a disability grant and are state subsidized.
4. Residents who have private income are paying fees of R3000.00 per month.
5. In your brother's case he was charged the same fee as those residents who receive a disability grant because we were able to secure a state subsidy for him, due to his limited means.
6. Your brother's trust account at Mental Health Society is audited every year by external auditors and this Society prides itself in the care and protection of hundreds of our clients' trust accounts entrusted to this Society. [Vague!]
7. The accommodation and what is provided to your brother is the same for all residents. No one gets special or different treatment.
8. The ambulance policy is non refundable and compulsory. It covers all residents and all residents get the same for toiletries and pocket money. [Vague!]
9. Your brother's curator always pays late and thus Fraser's account is always showing to be in arrears, despite our attempts to negotiate with them. They have never indicated to the Society that Fraser's investment is unable to cover fees, nor have they tried to negotiate the fees or the increases.
Your suggestion that this Society may be exploiting your vulnerable brother is offensive, and implies we do not provide a protective service to any of our residents. [Avoiding my questions, and reading 'suggestion,' 'offensive' and 'implies' into my July letter!]
We believe that this Society offers value for money in our services to disabled (and sometimes indigent) residents; we are charging the lowest fees in the province. [Vague!] It would be nice if you could come out and see for yourself what services are provided for your brother. Perhaps you would find better satisfaction at another organization. We would be happy to give details of alternative accommodation that may better suit you and your brother's needs."
My October 2008 reply to Pmb Mental Health Soc.:
"Regarding my July 2008 letter concerning my brother Fraser Esslemont's fees, thank you for your August 2008 letter, postmarked September 2008, received October 2008. The delay between your writing and posting is noted.
I am not querying the fees or care of indigents and other disabled people in Pmb MH Soc's care. I am only querying my brother Fraser Esslemont's fees and care, so your comparing his care / fees to others' is irrelevant.
I don't know who 'we' refers to in your August 2008 letter. Please specify names, as I can't respond to a vague 'we.' Your taking offense to my querying Fraser's fees is your perception only.
Your complaint about my brother Fraser's fees always being in arrears by his curator / administrator: Pmb Mental Health Soc's accountants have had 10 years to sort out account payment problems with the curator. The complaint is a perceived problem of Pmb MH Soc's own making.
Please cease suggesting that I travel from NZ to SA (at my obvious inconvenience and great expense) to view Pmb MH Soc's facilities, (or for any other reason), when you can efficiently answer my questions by mail. If / when I decide to travel to SA (unlikely for years), it will be my decision alone, and not Pmb MH Soc's decision. (In the past I had Addington Hospital and Town Hill Hospital making those sort of money wasting requests / impositions as well). I'm sure you would find it ridiculous, outrageous and naive if I asked you to travel to NZ at your inconvenience and expense to answer my questions in person.
Please also cease suggesting I find (or maybe asking Fraser's curator to find) alternative accommodation for Fraser, as over the years Addington Hospital / Town Hill Hospital made those sort of suggestions / impositions when I queried Fraser's welfare under their care.
Regarding my July 2008 letter, as you have failed to answer my questions properly, please refer to my July 2008 letter and specifically answer the following by return of post:
1. How many hostel men share a hostel room and ablutions with Fraser?
2. Is Fraser handed his pocket money, or does he have to ask for it?
2.2 What does Fraser's monthly R... Toiletries fee buy: Toilet paper? Deodorant? Shavers? Soap?
2.3 i Why does Sunnyside not have its own emergency transport?
ii How does the monthly R... ambulance fee actually benefit Fraser?
Please also answer:
2.4 What is the frequency of Fraser's ambulance use: Daily? Weekly? Monthly? Yearly?
As I have travelled a long journey of over 50 years with Fraser (longer than you ever will) I have no wish to cause offence, but I do need transparency. Telling me Fraser's trust account is annually audited by others is not good enough. Fraser's small estate is derived from an inheritance from our mother, who worked hard and for many years to achieve financial independence. I do not need my mother's memory, or my intelligence, or Fraser's insulted by vague responses to my fee queries.
Please provide answers to my questions by return of post."
No reply to my letter by Xmas 2008.
Pmb MH Soc was playing an ugly power game I'd also experienced at Addington Hospital and Town Hill Hospital, while ignoring Fraser's stability and my questions. After Addington and Town Hill carers started talking of moving Fraser, his stability degraded, and carers blamed brain-damaged Fraser for infractions of their own making.
The author of the Pmb MH Soc letter was offended that I queried annual increases in Fraser's fees. What really was offensive was the author didn't want to be held accountable to Fraser's family for fee increases, yet used Fraser's fees to offend Fraser in her care, by suggesting Fraser should stay elsewhere, after Pmb MH Soc had obtained and used state subsidies for Fraser, and used Fraser's money without complaint to me for ten years, despite my friendly correspondence with the author over the previous five years.
Coda: Just before Christmas 2008, I emailed a Pmb Mental Health Soc director about my unanswered questions. She emailed a report which answered some of my questions.
Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.