Gauteng yet to make necessary budget adjustments to respond to health ombud’s recommendations

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“In the context of the de-establishment of the Gauteng Mental Health Marathon Project (GMHMP) and the review of the sustainability of those NGOs to render mental health care services‚ we will then access the finances thereof as well and make a determination once we have finalised that assessment‚” said Phumla Sekhonyane‚ spokesperson for the Gauteng premier’s office.

Sekhonyane said government was not yet at liberty to determine by how much they would be adjusting the daily payments and NGOs as this matter was an ongoing process.

“We are reviewing everything including the finances and expenditure and we will then be able to make a determination at the end of the process‚” she told The Times.

The NGOs received R112 per person a day to take care of patients‚ slashed from R320 a day – a saving of R208.

The GMHMP was stopped by health ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba after the release of his much-anticipated report last Wednesday which contained explosive findings against former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu.

Makgoba was tasked with investigating the deaths of 36 psychiatric and disabled patients in the care of NGOs contracted by the Gauteng health department. Families of patients had complained of poor care and suspicious deaths at some facilities. National Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi ordered the inquiry.

“We are assessing and reviewing and looking into the licences [of NGOs] that may not be suitable and therefore be deregistered and the financial consequences thereof. At the moment‚ we are not in a position to say what is the finality with regards to the finances until they finalise the assessment‚” said Sekhonyane.

She said one of the first steps was to prioritise five high risk NGOs identified by Makgoba in his report and a team of specialists are currently visiting those institutions that are currently caring for mental health patients who were transferred from Life Esidimeni Hospital.

Weekend reports suggested that more than 22 bodies were lying at mortuaries across the province. The forensic pathology team is currently working to expedite the finalisation of the identification of the bodies.

Both the national and Gauteng provincial health departments were given instructions by Makgoba to implement several recommendations after 94 psychiatric patients died after being transferred to various non-governmental organisations across Gauteng. The patients were placed in NGOs after the Gauteng health department ended its contract with Life Esidimeni Hospital‚ which was looking after about 1‚900 seriously ill mental patients.

Sekhonyane said government has established a team – ordered by the Health Ombudsman – comprising of senior officials‚ specialists in the area of mental health‚ doctors‚ psychiatrists‚ psychologists‚ nurses‚ occupational therapists‚ civil society organisations and the police forensic pathology team who are expected to report to the premier and Motsoaledi on their progress.

Mahlangu has since resigned and has been replaced by Dr Gwen Ramokgopa‚ a former Deputy Minister of Health.

The process of instituting disciplinary proceedings against officials in the Gauteng Department of Health for the patients’ deaths was launched on Friday. However‚ Sekhonyane said there has not been any case opened against Gauteng premier David Makhura.

Brigadier Mathapelo Peters confirmed to The Times that three political parties – the Economic Freedom Fighters‚ Congress of the People as well as the ANC Youth League – have since opened cases of murder and culpable homicide against Mahlangu.

“There were three cases opened by political parties. One of murder‚ two of culpable homicide‚ and all three cases will be investigated and from now it will be a lot of processes that need to be followed including the pathology reports.”

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