Nerina running costs spike from load shedding

Nerina Gardens says that to keep its residents safe during evening outages, it needs to supply them with battery-operated lights for their rooms. From left are Nerina Gardens residents Thelma Joubert, Joy Barnard, and Liz Fincham showing off the types of lights needed by the facility.

The Nerina Gardens old-age home in Fish Hoek has launched a “Lights for Nights” fund-raiser to cut costs and better equip the facility during load shedding.

The home has a generator, but using it to keep the lights on is costly, with R15 240 spent on diesel last month and an unexpected repair last week costing R8000, says manager Sandy Lovick.

The home’s plan to ease the financial burden of managing load shedding focuses on identifying essential areas that must have power during blackouts, reducing the generator’s running time and procuring inverters, rechargeable bulbs and emergency lighting.

“The only way to reduce this cost is to reduce the running time of the generator by prioritising essential areas and times and implementing energy-efficient alternatives, especially during night-time outages,” said Ms Lovick.

The home plans to provide power to key areas only, such as fire alarms, the CCTV camera system, the kitchen, the laundry, and administration offices.

Emergency lighting in the passageways was essential, especially during night-time outages; rechargeable lightbulbs were needed for the bathrooms and nurses’ station; and each resident needed a battery-powered light for their room, Ms Lovick said.

“It is especially important that the semi-frail and dementia units have adequate emergency lighting to negate the concern for falls and for staff to be able to adequately supervise the residents.”

The home aimed to raise R100 000 for the emergency lighting, including LED strip lights, in the passageways; fitting costs; and two inverters, which cost around R80 000 according to some quotes received, said Ms Lovick.

Patricia Küttel, the home’s food-service manager, said it was difficult to prepare meals during load shedding because the kitchen had only two gas burners and electricity was needed to run the rest of the equipment in the kitchen.

“We use the Eskom app and try to plan our schedule around it, but it is not always that easy,” she said.

David Sylvester, chairman of Fish Hoek Eldercare, the non-profit organisation that runs Nerina Gardens, Carlisle Lodge, and Chapman’s House, said the failure of the state to provide a reliable electricity supply to South Africans was placing lives at risk, particularly those of the elderly and vulnerable.

“This electricity crisis seems to be destined to last indefinitely and is a source of great concern to Fish Hoek Eldercare. Our primary concern is our residents, and we receive no subsidies from the City of Cape Town, the Western Cape, or the national governments, and the cost of running the generators has skyrocketed with the drastic increases in the price of fuel. These costs are very difficult to pass on to our residents, many of who are on fixed incomes and assisted financially by family members.”

The home’s only source of revenue came from residents’ tariffs, and despite all their electricity-saving measures, the strain on the home’s finances was intense, he said.

“We strive to be a sustainable organisation that will be around to serve future generations, but this current crisis, following hot on the heels of the expenses and disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic, has created havoc with our budgetary processes.”

In coming months, Nerina Gardens will host several fund-raisers, such as an open day, a candle-lit dinner, a quiz night and a high tea.

Ms Lovick said the home would welcome help from the community, including contacts who could help with sourcing equipment and donations of money, LED lights, energy-saving bulbs, emergency lights, rechargeable lights, and torches.

For more information, call Ms Lovick at 021 782 6106.

An energy saving chart in the passageway of Nerina Gardens.