Commercial News

The vital link between property finance and effective healthcare in SA

By D’Anvo Jones, Divisional Executive: Nedbank Corporate and Investment Banking (NCIB) Property Finance

The 2016 World Alzheimer Report, released by Alzheimer Disease International highlighted the fact that people living with dementia typically have poor access to appropriate healthcare. While the challenge is a global one, the lack of appropriate care facilities is more acute in low-income countries. It’s a worrying finding, particularly given that there are already close to 50 million people living with dementia around the world. Aging global populations combined with longer average lifespans are set to steadily increase that number to over 130 million dementia sufferers by 2050, around 70% of who, according to Alzheimer Disease International, will be from low- and middle income countries.

As a developing country that is still emerging from a legacy of widespread poverty created by years of inequality, South Africa falls squarely under this ‘low-income country’ banner. The results of the last census conducted here, in 2011, revealed that there were around 2.2 million South Africans living with some form of dementia. Given the overall population growth since that census, it is probably safe to assume that this figure is now closer to 4 million. This was borne out by pilot research undertaken by the University of the Free State, which indicated that the prevalence of dementia in the country is considerably higher than initially estimated.

“Of course, the socio-economic cost of dealing with this higher prevalence is significant. And while national government is committed to investing heavily into healthcare for all South Africans, primary healthcare understandably receives the lion’s share of this investment. Caring for dementia patients is a field that requires levels of specialisation and types of dedicated facilities that often place it outside of the ambit of general hospitalisation and health treatment budgets, explained D’Anvo Jones, Divisional Executive: Nedbank CIB Property Finance (NCIB).

As a result, despite a rapidly urbanising South Africa population, availability of appropriate dementia care facilities – ones that promote social inclusion and help to reduce stigmatisation – remains very low. And while corporate social investment programmes may go some way towards addressing this shortage, bigger investments from SA’s private sector are most definitely needed.

This recognition of the challenge, and the role we must play in helping to overcome it, is what prompted NCIB Property Finance to recently partner with MidCity and Feenstra Group and provide the finance needed for the relocation and expansion of the Fleurenville Assisted Living and Care Centre in central Pretoria.

The project will see Fleurenville Arcadia relocating to a new facility in Montana and the conversion of the existing building in Arcadia to rental accommodation under the ‘MidCity Living’ brand.

The proposed new Fleurenville Montana development is a highly specialised assisted living and frail care facility offering 176 sectional title accommodation units, inviting communal gardens and lifestyle areas offering everything from sitting- and dining rooms to a pharmacy, tuckshop, multi-denominational chapel and hair salon – all supported by specialised, full-time or as needed medical care and occupational therapy services for residents.

Jones points out that, “The Fleurenville care model is one that has proven immensely successful in delivering effective medical and frail care in an environment that prioritises safety, dignity, quality of life and continued social inclusion for residents of the facility. It’s an approach that fits perfectly with Nedbank’s stated purpose to use its financial expertise to do good for all South Africans, and one that the project partners intend rolling out across the country over time to meet the growing demand for care for the elderly, frail and those living with dementia.”

And with the support of other private sector organisations, particularly within the property development and finance sectors, this type of healthcare model could have a massive and sustainable positive impact, not just for sufferers of dementia and their families, but for South African society and the country’s economy as a whole.