The Star Early Edition
Wheelchair-bound man battles RAF
A JOHANNESBURG man, paralysed from the waist down after a car accident, alleges that the Road Accident Fund (RAF) has stopped paying for services he desperately needs.
Joseph Maseko, 52, a father of five who lives in Bez Valley, is confined to a wheelchair and works for the Johannesburg Correctional Service’s human resources department.
He was involved in the car accident in November 2001 and spent three years in hospital. He suffered a serious spinal cord injury that resulted in complete loss of sensation and paraplegia from the waist down.
“This injury has rendered me completely dependent on a wheelchair for mobility. I have also come to rely on assistance from devices such as urinary catheters, equipment sterilisers, molipants for incontinence and bioscrub, among others,” Maseko said.
After his discharge from hospital, he said, the North Gauteng High Court declared him a beneficiary of the fund, and issued an order that made provision for the services of a caregiver or domestic helper to be paid for by the RAF.
“The undertaking was made an order of court and afforded me easy and seamless access to all the requisite devices and services that I have so heavily relied on throughout my disability,” Maseko said.
The fund met all the obligations since 2001 until late last year, he said.
“It all began when the fund changed my case manager who was very compassionate and caring. I started running out of supplies and my complaints fell on deaf ears,” he said.
“I was very concerned about the catheter pipes because I use them to pass urine and without them I am unable to relieve myself. I am unable to reuse the catheters as doing so makes me susceptible to infection. It was therefore very urgent that my supplies be replenished,” Maseko explained.
His wife, Portia Radebe, who is now his carer, claims that in December she decided to go to the RAF offices to find out about her husband’s case.
“I was utterly verbally abused and humiliated by my husband’s new case manager. She made outrageous suggestions about my husband’s conditions, suggesting that they were not consistent with what my husband’s doctor has said,” Radebe said.
The couple claim that attempts to escalate their plight to the fund’s senior management also hit a brick wall.
“In January one of the supervisors at the RAF told us to stop calling her as we were annoying her,” Radebe said.
“They are punishing my husband and we wish we knew why,” she said.
Maseko has already developed bed sores because of a lack of skin barrier protection cream, lubrication gel and a special cushion for paraplegics. He also needs a new wheelchair – the current one is over five years old and he is entitled to a new wheelchair every five years.
He has showed The Star a list of supplies – prescribed by hospital doctors and physiotherapists – that he has not received since the start of the year because the RAF had stopped paying the service providers. He added that the fund also had not made renovations to his house to make it paraplegic-friendly.
In a desperate attempt to appeal to their emotions, Maseko sent the fund’s chief executive, Collins Phutjane Letsoalo, pictures of his backside with sores. In response, an obviously agitated Letsoalo responds by telling
the couple to, “Take this matter further if you so wish … If you are so aggrieved … you cannot send me inappropriate pictures of your private parts … ”
Attempts to get a comment from the fund were unsuccessful.