The History of Fish Hoek Home Nursing Services Trust

Fish Hoek Home Nursing Services Trust was established under the auspices of the then Fish Hoek Town Council in April 1991. This autonomous, self-supporting, non-profit making organisation was initially founded to assist the elderly in the Fish Hoek Valley only but now serves the entire southern tip of the Cape Peninsula.   Originally started at the home of the first Nursing Manager, Gail Rail at 85a Kommetjie Road, with three Registered Nurses and six home carers, they later moved to premises on Centre Circle provided by the Town Council. Whilst the service was affiliated to the Council it was quite independent.

Board of Trustees FHHNS, 1992. From left to right: Sister Gail Rail, General Manager; Ms. Marequita Townley-Johnson Deptuty Mayor; Mr. M C Wallace (Mayor); Dr. Peter van der Walt; Ms. Carolyn Guthrie and Mrs. Miemie van der Merwe.

Many people have helped FHHNS down the path of success and not to minimise the contribution of each and every staff member along the way, mention must be made of some who were pivotal in the development and success of the agency. They are key figures in the setting up of the organisation, in the maintenance, growth and the planning for change required to meet the future.

The original concept of a home nursing service was put forward by Dr. Peter van der Walt who served as a Councillor on the Fish Hoek Town Council in the early 1990’s together with the then Mayor of Fish Hoek, Ms. Townley Johnson. Their vision and foresight resulted in a service being created which was widely admired and emulated by many other areas in the years to come. At a Fish Hoek Town Council meeting in early April 1990 a motion was put forward for discussion regarding the possibility of the establishment of a “society” for the aged in Fish Hoek which would allow the elderly the option of remaining in their homes instead of moving to a retirement village. The nursing services provided would be similar to those available in a frail care but could be conducted in the privacy of the patient’s home. Thereafter a meeting was held with Registered Nurses in the community, one of whom was Sister Gail Rail. In October 1991, a flyer and questionnaire was mailed to all rate payers to ascertain how many local residents would be interested in joining such a “society.” Armed with the results of what we would now call a feasibility study, on 20th March 1991, Sister Rail put forward a detailed proposal to Council tabling the requirements, financial projection and set up costs needed to start up a service such as this.

On the 8th April 1991, Ms. Townley Johnson sent out a notice of a public meeting to be held in the Town Hall on 22nd April 1991. The trustees elected to the Board were as follows:

Patron: The Mayor: Ms. Townley Johnson

Chairman: Mr. M. Wallace

Treasurer: Dr. P. J. van der Walt

Secretary: Town Clerk ex officio

Trustee: Mrs. C. S. Guthrie

Three hundred people attended and 250 of them joined up as the original founding members of FHHNS.   Six of these founder members are still with us today!

Sister Gail Rail,  Sister Dorothy Mocke and Sister Mary Smith made up the first team of Registered Nurses together with 6 carers. Two of these carers were awarded long service awards for 25 years service in 2016.

Pictured above are the first three Registered Nurses who worked for FHHNS: From left to right: Sister Dorothy Mocke, Sister Gail Rail and Sister Mary Smith.
A group of the first carers who worked for FHHNS.

During those years the South African Nursing Association was a very strong body representing all nursing staff in their working environment throughout the country. Proposals were invited annually for a registered nurse to be put forward who had made a remarkable difference in her community. In November 1992, Sister Rail was awarded second place for creativity and exceptional initiative in the nursing profession, for her part in getting the nursing service up and running. She was presented with the award by Dr. Annemarie Bruwer, the then President of the South African Nursing Association, together with a cheque for R1,000.00!

In 1993, Sister Rail decided to emigrate to New Zealand and the leadership was taken over by Sister Dorothy Mocke. Mrs. Glynnis Helleman had joined the service as the Financial Manger the year before.   In an interview on Fish Hoek Radio in 1993, Dr. van der Walt said the following: “The success of the Fish Hoek Nursing Service must be attributed in a large measure to Sister Rail’s dynamic leadership. It was the first of its kind in the country and it has aroused wide-spread interest. Guided by Sister Rail, similar nursing bodies have already been established in five other areas in the Western Cape. Thank you, Gail and your loyal staff for all you have done for the Fish Hoek community. We are sure that Sister Dorothy Mocke and Glynnis Helleman will carry on the good work in the future.”

And that is exactly what happened!

In 1993, the agency moved to the municipal building on Central Circle, near the ARP and P office and a few years later to a house at 93 Kommetjie Road, where a care centre with 6 beds was also started. In 2004, due to the financial constraints of running the care centre it was decided to discontinue this service and the agency moved to its current premises in Essex Court, Central Road where FHHNS continued to do what we have always done best and that is to look after patients in their own homes, which has always been their strength.

There have been many people who have influenced the development of the service and helped to get us to where we are today. Sisters and carers have come and gone but all have contributed as best they were able to our success. The members of the Board of Trustees have changed from time to time but throughout the past 25 years our Trustees have stood by us and supported us during good and bad times, and we thank them all for this.

Sister Mocke remained the Nursing Manager until 2003. She was very popular amongst the staff and the members and having grown up and been educated in Fish Hoek, was very well known by all and certainly contributed greatly to the expansion of the service.

Here, particular mention must be made of our Treasurer, Herb Farrow, from 1995 – 2017. He provided invaluable assistance to Glynnis over the years and was also instrumental in starting a Benevolent Fund to assist those who were not able to afford our care. Some of our Trustees have served FHHNS for many years and here we must mention Corrie Cronwright and Harry Dilley who is still on the Board.

Clive Wakeford was our Chairman from 1995, and as a local businessman being very much part of the Fish Hoek scene, was a popular and successful Chairman until his death in 2010. He was succeeded by John Frylinck who is the current Chairman.

Sister Lynette Niemann joined the agency in 2003 as General Manager. She came to the organisation with years of nursing administration experience and was instrumental in formalising the agency and streamlining and updating all our systems. Her major contribution resulted in the agency being able to improve our practice as regards administrative, legal and labour relation issues and documentation of all records and nursing practices and statistics. She retired in 2008.

Sister Heather Storer joined the service in 2001 and having strong background in management and computer skills was able to assist with the computerisation of the organisation and further streamlining the administrative practices and records in keeping with modern methods. In 2004, she was appointed as the Nursing Manager and retired in 2017.

In November 2017, Sister Jenny Martin, who has worked for FHHNS since 2000, was appointed as the Nursing Manager. She, together with Sisters Jenny Godwin, Carol Arnold and Mary-Rose Fuller, Glynnis Hellemann, Melissa Welthagen and Angela Geldenhuys make up our current staff complement.

Membership figures have risen and fallen over the years depending on the economic clime and currently runs at about 400 clients. We continue to provide a valuable a service as before and cover a radius of 50 kilometres – a far cry from the original area which included only the Fish Hoek valley and near surroundings.

Sister Rail began with a little back diary in which bookings were made and duties worked out and allocated. Sister Mocke later started up a system of working on a white board which made visualisation of the carer’s duties and patient shifts more easily visible. In a scrapbook which Sister Rail has sent out to us for the occasion of our 25th Anniversary, we found a photo of her standing in front of a white board with 20 lines drawn, one for each carer at that time. At present we work on 5 white boards which cover three walls in the Duty Office and have a total of 100 carers in our employ at present.

In writing our history we must pay tribute to Glynnis Helleman who has who has been part of the FHHNS team since 1992.   The success of our agency can largely be attributed to her sound, ethical business practices, without which other businesses have floundered and failed. Although we are a non-profit Trust Fund, we remain a business. No business can grow without strict adherence to strong accounting practices, diligence in maintaining thriftiness and prevention of waste of any kind. This is thanks to Glynnis’s dedication to her work.

Mention must be made of our three benefactors over the past years: Miss Petrie, Mrs. Francis Chantler, and thirdly Mrs. Miemie van der Merwe. The donations from these members have made our monthly financial management less stressful and we are deeply indebted to them. Most of the money bequeathed to us has been used on our bond and for an investment which has freed up additional working capital each month.

Our agency has had four different logos, our current one and these three below, over the last years since our inception:


We proudly support our new logo which can be seen on our website and Facebook page as we move forward with more modern technology.

With the worsening economy patient numbers fluctuate greatly from month to month. However, illness and death are not dictated to by economic times and there will always be patients in need a service such as FHHNS. We will continue , as always, in the future, to be available to our patients 24-hours of the day.

We salute the staff who have gone before us, celebrate those who are currently with us and wish all those who may join us, many successful years of serving our community in the future.