Gauteng Health fails again, missing the deadline to move Esidimeni psychiatric patients


The Gauteng Department of Health has failed to meet the deadline set out by the Health Ombudsman, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba to move psychiatric patients from unregistered NGOs.

On 1 February, the ombudsman gave the department 45 days to move more than 700 patients from unregistered NGOs to facilities where they will receive proper care and treatment.

In his report, Makgoba recommended that all patients from the health facility, Life Esidimeni currently placed in unlawful NGOs, must be urgently moved and placed in appropriate health care establishments within the province. He said that these facilities must have the competency to take care of the patients’ specialised needs and must be constantly available. This was to have been done within 45 days to reduce risk and save lives; simultaneously, a full assessment and costing must be undertaken.

Also read: Beware of fake health practictioners 

On 8 March, Health MEC, Dr Gwen Ramokgopa gave an update on the transfer of patients. She said only 63 patients had been moved from two NGOs. She also stated that they were experiencing numerous challenges, the main one being that of unreachable family members of the patients. She also stated that the move of patients will not be done hastily.

Ramokgopa highlighted that the main alternatives for the patients are the Selby Park Clinic and re-opened Life Esidimeni facilities. “The relocation to these institutions is complex and patient dignity, clinical care and safe transportation [must be considered],” Ramokgopa said at the time.

DA Shadow MEC for Health, Jack Bloom mentioned that it seems that 20 unlicensed NGOs are still looking after hundreds of patients. An allegation that the Gauteng Department of Health has failed to confirm or deny.

According to Bloom, Life Esidimeni has indicated that it would take a number of weeks for them to safely accommodate a large number of the patients.

Ramokgopa has said that R495 per day is being paid for each patient at the private facilities, which amounts to about R15 000 per patient per month.

“This is considerably higher than the R320 per day that was paid previously to Life Esidimeni, which amounted to R9 920 per month for each patient,” Bloom said.

“It highlights, once again, the folly of former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu in cancelling the previous contract with Esidimeni after a study by the Health Advance Institute in May 2015 found that this was good value for money.”

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Belinda Pheto

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