National 23.8.2016 02:55 pm

Hundreds of psychiatric patients allegedly go missing

Jack Bloom, DA Gauteng Shadow MEC. Picture: Randfontein Herald.

Jack Bloom, DA Gauteng Shadow MEC. Picture: Randfontein Herald.

‘What happened to about 400 mentally ill patients who should have been placed in institutions?’ DA shadow minister asks.

More complaints have emerged about the whereabouts and care of former Life Esidimeni psychiatric patients, Randfontein Herald reports.

According to Jack Bloom, DA Gauteng shadow MEC for health, the whereabouts of 400 chronically ill psychiatric patients are unknown.

Bloom refers to his correspondence with Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu, in which the numbers of patients that have been discharged and relocated did not add up.

He said that in a recent reply, Mahlangu had indicated that 1 362 patients were relocated from Esidimeni to three hospitals and five nongovernmental organisations (NGOs).

However, in a previous written reply, Mahlangu had said that 1 671 patients needed long-term care and NGOs would also accommodate 113 patients that needed medium-term care but are categorised as high-level functioning patients.

“I am concerned that 1 784 patients were apparently supposed to be placed in hospitals and NGOs, but only 1 362 patients have been accounted for.

“What happened to the approximately 400 mentally-ill patients who should have been placed in institutions?” Bloom said.

READ MORE: 30 Esidimeni child patients soon to have a new home

He said the department of health had originally indicated it would house 1 193 patients at the Weskoppies, Sterkfontein, Tshwane, and Cullinan Care hospitals, the refurbished parts of the Transvaal Memorial Institution (TMI), Pinnar and the Old Germiston Hospital, while the NGOs were supposed to house 591 patients.

“According to Mahlangu, only 360 patients have been housed at Weskoppies, Sterkfontein and Cullinan, and none whatsoever at Tshwane, TMI, Pinnar or the Old Germiston Hospital.

A total of 1 002 patients are now in 25 NGOs, with numbers ranging from 197 patients at Tshepong to one patient at Hephzibhar,” said Bloom.

Bloom described the relocation planning as ‘poor’ and said there have been many complaints from relatives. “There are many complaints from relatives about the unsuitability of the NGOs and lack of care for patients who sometimes don’t get their medicine.

“It is very distressing that vulnerable people have been treated so badly.”

He is now calling on the department to clear up the mystery of the missing patients and to tighten supervision at the NGOs that currently care for psychiatric patients.

“If an NGO is not able to offer quality care, the patients should be transferred elsewhere,” he said.

– Caxton News Service.

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