It’s more expensive now patients have relapsed – Bid to cut budget for mental healthcare backfires


It’s more expensive now patients have relapsed – Bid to cut budget for mental healthcare backfires

Katharine Child | 2017-02-01 09:00:36.0

The health ombudsman‚ Professor Malegapuru Makgoba.


The Gauteng department of health is now spending more on some psychiatric patients than it did when they were housed at Life Esidimeni care homes.

About 1‚900 patients were removed in June last year from the Life Esidimeni homes after the department ended its contract with the Life hospital group to save R200-million a year. It cost R10‚000 a month to look after these severely psychotic or intellectually impaired patients.

Subsequently‚ many patients have relapsed after being evicted from Life Esidimeni homes and are being housed in state psychiatric hospitals. Section 27 has reported that Sterkfontein’s hospitals have become crowded with patients sleeping in the nurses’ accommodation.

Tebogo Maimane from Hammanskraal said her brother Aaron was taken to an NGO in Springs after being discharged from a Life home last year. “When we visited him‚ he was dirty and pale. It was like he hadn’t eaten in a week. He didn’t even recognise us. The Department of Health disappointed us.”

Aaron collapsed after two weeks and he was taken to Weskoppies state hospital where he has been for six months‚ said Maimane.

Head of the South African Society of Psychiatrists Mvuyiso Talatala estimated that it costs about R16‚000 to house a patient in state psychiatric institutions such as Sterkfontein and Weskoppies.

Talatala also said that the Gauteng department of health was building 900 beds to house some of the patients from Esidimeni homes who were discharged in June last year.

“This will be massive expenditure precipitated by the closure of Life Esidimeni and is not in keeping with deinstitutionalisation policy‚” said Talatala.

At the time of her controversial move to evict patients‚ Mahlangu said she was ending her contract with Life hospitals‚ in line with South African Mental Health Care Act’s policy to shift patients from institutions as well as to reduce costs.

But she is now increasing beds in institutions to deal with the patients who have nowhere to go.

The health ombudsman‚ Professor Malegapuru Makgoba‚ is releasing his report into the decision to move patients and the resultant deaths today.

– TMG Digital/TimesLIVE

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