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Add your voice to the conversation

Hillary Mumford, CEO of PADCA (Pietermaritzburg and District Council for the Care of the Aged)


Hillary has 25 years’ service with PADCA, serving as CEO for the past 4 years. 59 years of age,  Hillary is a professional nurse, who when she started out as  a nurse had dreams of being a Theatre Matron. Her journey into aged care has been fulfilling and she sees it as a privilege to be in this field of service. Fascinated by older people’s life stories and courage, she is happy because she knows she does this well, and sees herself growing all the time.

PADCA has been serving the community for 65 years and Hillary believes the attributes for PADCA’s success are multifaceted.

  • Back in 1948 when the organisation was started, it was the passion and compassion of a group of volunteers who responded to the needs of older people standing in long pension queues, that formed its foundation. It had a good reason for being in existence “to alleviate the distress of older people”.
  • Sound leadership in terms of high powered board members who gift their talents, time and skills.
  • Ability to adapt to changing circumstances. PADCA has reinvented itself a number of times; when there was no longer a need for a service or facility, PADCA moved on.
  • One of the current ways of reinventing itself is through adopting the Eden Alternative.
  • In the 90’s developed a retirement village to both serve that economic cohort as well as generate funds through the sale of life rights for PADCA’s sub-economic operations.
  • A strong volunteer corps has been a strong pillar to build on.
  • Phenomenal staff – from top management to lower level staff – cannot put a price on commitment and loyalty, it’s one of the ‘difference makers’

Hillary believes that one of PACA’s greatest strengths is that, through the far sightedness of the board, the organisation is well resourced, and this is an encouragement for staff. Part of that resource is technology – both through the provision of up to date computer technology and through the social media. Another strength has been their marketing and development of their PADCA brand.

Considering PADCA’s challenges, Hillary suggests they are 5-fold:

  • Quality of care in frail care because of level of skills of nursing staff, and the organisation’s inability to pay salaries demanded by bettercalibre staff.
  • Among their sub-economic residents, the lack of adequate medical backup due to the current poor state of state health services.
  • Moving from a medical model of care to the person-directed model.
  • Lack of funding for home-based care programmes to support older people in the community.
  • Empty beds in residential care due to people staying on in their homes in the community, no matter how dysfunctional they become, and then moving directly into frail care


For Hillary, leadership means a combination of passion and vision. A person can be a good administrator and be focused and process oriented but a leader needs much more. Leadership needs commitment. As a leader, she wants people in her team who can question, who are willing to wonder if there is a different way, people who are aware of trends in society and trends and threats in their specific aged care field. As CEO she enjoys being backed by a diverse team.  In her own organisation leadership is focusing on developing partnerships locally. One such example is with the Department of Psychology and UKZN in terms of applied research looking at outcomes…..????

She is of the opinion that leadership in the care sector needs to focus on advocacy, ensuring ageing is on every agenda. She believes the stumbling block is disparate network groups in the care sector, not coming together in a powerful way, but people in top management in organisations are too busy with their own organisations’ agendas to input in a meaningful way, or benefit from networking nationally and globally.

I asked Hillary what she thought of the idea that organisations should “shed their skins” and be brave enough to move from a provider role to embrace that of facilitator. She believes people are just too busy “doing” that there is insufficient time to sit back, reflect and plan.

It is difficult to appreciate light without darkness and shadows. For Hillary, the “bright light” in the care sector in SA is that standards are improving, the baby boomers have increased expectations in terms of levels of service, and the larger NGO’s are being run well as businesses, with heart and a service ethic. Many organisations are embracing person-directed care, some using the Eden model.

The shadows in SA, for Hillary, are the disparities, the decline in state health services, and poor salaries for care work.

Hillary, outside of aged care, is mother of Matthew and says family is very important to her, and affirms her as a human being.  She believes life sends you challenges but you have to step up, get through the pain, and then reap the rewards. She believes you have to be refined, go through the crucible to discover if you have what it takes, and learn from the “sore” times in life.  She is a keen cyclist, and to relax she enjoys reading, gardening and has recently take up embroidery again, focusing on cross stitch.

She is inspired by stories of successful ageing locally, nationally and globally – to hear of someone well in their 80’s tackling a cycle race, or hearing of someone with great mental acuity, is testament to the fact that age doesn’t have to define one.

Hillary Mumford, CEO of PADCA, the South African Care Forum salutes you as a leader in care in SA!