Gauteng’s Makhura hits at ‘tragic and ill-fated’ transfer of mental patients to NGOs
Genevieve Quintal | 2017-02-20 15:48:35.0
Gauteng premier David Makhura. File photo.
Image by: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Antonio Muchave
The decision to transfer mental health patients from the facilities of Life Esidimeni to unlicensed nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) was not made in consultation with the provincial executive council‚ Gauteng premier David Makhura said on Monday.
His statement came amid calls for criminal charges against former health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and others in the health department responsible for the transfer of the patients.
Opposition parties also called on Makhura to step down and asked how he could not have known what was happening.
In his state-of-the-province address in Randfontein‚ west of Johannesburg‚ Makhura said|: “The executive council and I would never have approved a plan to outsource mental health [care]‚ a primary responsibility of the state… We would never have supported the decision to outsource this to NGOs‚ whether they would have been licensed or not.”
But he did not say how in the first place the patients were moved to Life Esidimeni‚ owned by Life Healthcare‚ the JSE-listed private hospital operator.
Makhura started his speech by addressing the deaths of more than 100 mental health patients.
Members of the DA arrived at the state-of-the-province presentation carrying black flags which read “Remember the Esidimeni 100+”.
Health ombudsman Prof Malegapuru Makgoba found that 94 psychiatric patients died of starvation and lack of water at the NGOs where they were placed. It has since emerged that more patients had died.
Makhura‚ explaining what had happened‚ said the provincial department of health told him repeatedly there were new facilities‚ hospitals and community healthcare centres with enough beds to accommodate patients in private health facilities such as Life Esidimeni.
He also said the provincial executive was by law not allowed to interfere in the appointment or retention of service providers by departments‚ but warned that cost considerations could not override the imperative of providing quality services.
“It is now common cause… that the ill-fated transfer of the patients to the NGOs compromised the wellbeing of mental health patients who were at Life Esidimeni.
“As head of the government in our province‚ I am deeply aggrieved by the extent to which those responsible for the tragic and ill-fated transfer of patients to unlawfully operating NGOs have tried to hide the facts and information from me as the premier‚ from the minister of health as well as their determined effort to try withhold the facts from the health ombudsman‚” Makhura said.
The night before the public release of the health ombudsman’s report‚ Mahlangu resigned. Makhura has since replaced her with former deputy health minister Gwen Ramokgopa.
Makhura said on Monday the province was now working swiftly to implement the recommendations made by the health ombudsman in his report.
He said the most urgent was to relocate mental health patients to appropriate facilities and close down the NGOs identified in the report.