Mental patients still at NGOs are at risk‚ says ombudsman
Katharine Child | 2017-02-01 17:32:10.0
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The patients who were released from Life Esidimeni psychiatric homes and are still alive and at NGOs are at risk‚ according to ombudsman Malegapura Makgoba.
“I have requested they are removed from NGOs are placed in hospitals where they can properly be looked after.
“We don’t know when it is going to happen to patients even if the NGOs haven’t has deaths‚” he said.
About 1‚317 were moved from the Life Esidimeni home and at least 94 died.
Makgoba also said of the 94 deaths‚ only one was from a mental illness.
“These were not natural deaths‚” he said. His investigations found they died of hunger‚ heart attacks‚ dehydration and most could have been prevented.
“They went to sleep in a place that was supposed to care for them and didn’t wake up‚” said Makgoba.
Makgoba’s investigation into the closure of the home was thwarted by those responsible‚ he said.
He said the head of department. the MEC and the director of the department tampered with evidence and obstructed justice.
He discovered the director of the health department had signed the licences for the NGOs to take patients‚ which was unlawful because the Head of Department Barney Selebano was supposed to sign these. The NGOs were also not properly vetted. When Selebano realised he had been caught out‚ he tried to resign the licences by collecting the incorrect ones from NGOs and replacing them.
Mark Heywood of public interest law centre Section 27 called Selebano’s action “fraud”.
Makgoba recommended that Selebano be suspended from his post and reported to the Health Professions Council of SA for misconduct. It was announced after Makgoba’s conference that health MEC Quedani Mahlangu had resigned In court matter last April when Section 27 tried to prevent patients being discharged from Life Esidimeni homes‚ the Gauteng department of health said they were choosing NGOs based on a list of suitability criteria.
But Makgoba said this list of criteria “never surfaced”. Heywood suggested the claims to the court about such a list and the careful actions the department would take to look after patients were perjury.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said of the saga: “I am distressed and very angry. It is quite distressing. It goes beyond embarrassment. Something like this should have been avoided.”