‘MEC Mahlangu cannot simply resign and walk away from this’ – Medical fraternity on mental patients’ deaths


‘MEC Mahlangu cannot simply resign and walk away from this’ – Medical fraternity on mental patients’ deaths

TMG Digital | 2017-02-01 16:09:50.0

Gauteng Health MEC, Qedani Mahlangu. File photo.

Image by: Mabuti Kali / Sowetan

Qedani Mahlangu must still be held accountable for the “disgraceful‚ unprofessional‚ and inhumane way” she handled the treatment of state psychiatric patients‚ despite her resignation as Gauteng Health MEC on Wednesday‚ doctors say.

“The findings by Health Ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba on the deaths of 94 psychiatric patients in Gauteng last year are extremely disturbing‚ and concerning‚” the South African Medical Association (SAMA) said in a statement.

Prof Makgoba found that 94 patients died as result of them being transferred from the Life Esidemeni facility in Randburg to non-governmental facilities in the province.

The Gauteng Health Department had made the decision to cut costs‚ SAMA noted.

Dr Mzukisi Grootboom‚ chairperson of SAMA‚ said: “The disgraceful‚ unprofessional‚ and inhumane way the MEC dealt with this situation warranted nothing less than her removal. However‚ we believe‚ now that the Ombudsman’s report is out‚ further investigations are needed to not only finally deal with the actions of the former MEC but also those officials associated with the transfers”.

“Former MEC Mahlangu cannot simply resign and walk away from this. She‚ and other officials in the department‚ have to be held accountable.

“What happened with these patients is a national tragedy on a massive scale and everything must be done to prevent something similar from happening again‚” said Dr Grootboom.

Gauteng Premier David Makhura has meanwhile announced that he intends to appoint former Deputy Health Minister‚ and former Gauteng Health MEC‚ Dr Gwen Ramokgoba‚ as the new Health MEC in the province.

SAMA noted that the Ombudsman’s report stated officials had acted negligently in moving the patients. While it welcomed the Premier’s statement that he views the improper and negligent actions of officials in a serious light‚ the medical association said that “must lead to serious consequences and accountability”.

“Our thoughts now must be with the families of those who died. This must be an extremely difficult time for them. To prolong‚ or delay‚ any action against the MEC‚ and other officials involved in this disaster‚ will‚ quite frankly‚ only make their suffering worse.

“The Premier needs to ensure that this action is swift‚ and meaningful‚ not only for the sake of those involved‚ but for the thousands of other mentally ill patients throughout the country‚” said Dr Grootboom.

SAMA has also welcomed the decision by the Premier to move all patients currently placed in NGOs back to public healthcare. “This is an important step by the Premier because it sends the dual message that is important to care properly for mentally patients‚ and that the province is willing to fund their continued proper treatment. This‚ in our opinion‚ should have been the thinking from the start instead of looking at moving mentally ill patients to save money.”

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