National 16.9.2016 02:29 pm

NGO stays open despite eight deaths of psychiatric patients

FILE PICTURE: Democratic Alliance Gauteng caucus leader Jack Bloom. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

FILE PICTURE: Democratic Alliance Gauteng caucus leader Jack Bloom. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

Of the 36 psychiatric patients who were transferred from Lifehealthcare Esidimeni to various NGOs, at least eight of them who died had been transferred to Precious Angels.

Precious Angels – the nongovernmental organisation (NGO) linked to eight of the 36 psychiatric patients who have died in Gauteng in recent months – continues to provide its services even though the provincial health department said patients had been moved elsewhere, the Democratic Alliance (DA) said on Friday.

READ MORE: Gauteng health MEC should resign over patient deaths – DA

“Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu said earlier this week that patients had been relocated from the Precious Angels facility in Attridgeville,” said Jack Bloom of the DA.

This week it emerged that in just four months, 36 of the more than 2 000 psychiatric patients transferred from Lifehealthcare Esidimeni to various NGOs had died.

Reports suggest that at least eight of patients who died had been transferred to Precious Angels.

“It appears that eight patients died while in the care of Precious Angels, including 50-year-old Virginia Machpelah, whose sister was only told 10 days after her death that she had died,” said Bloom.

“Precious Angels was only registered as an NGO in June this year, shortly before receiving patients from Lifehealthcare Esidimeni.”

Bloom said the health department needed to urgently justify why patients were still being treated by “this NGO where so many patients have already died”.

Asked to comment, the Gauteng health department said the matter was being probed by the health ombudsman.

A woman at Precious Angels, who only identified herself as “Esther”, refused to answer any questions with a curt “no comment”.

Last year in October, provincial health MEC Qedani Mahlangu announced that the long-standing contract with Lifehealthcare Esidimeni had become unaffordable. As a result, the contract was cancelled, and the private facilities closed on March 31.

At the time, the health MEC said in 2014/15 the province spent R323 million to treat 2 378 patients at the private facilities.

“The department cannot afford this,” said Mahlangu, adding the transfer of patients from Lifehealthcare Esidimeni to other NGOs would facilitate community care, human dignity and community integration.

On Wednesday, Mahlangu said she could not link the deaths of the patients to their transfer to other facilities. She said her department was investigating the matter. Mahlangu said health records of patients had been requested from Lifehealthcare Esidimeni as part of the probe.

Her comments prompted calls for her resignation from the the DA.

“Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu should resign over the deaths of 36 psychiatric patients at the unsuitable NGOs in which they were placed after being discharged from Lifehealthcare Esidimeni,” said Bloom.

READ MORE: Deaths of 36 psychiatric patients to be investigated

On Thursday, national Minister of Health, Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, ordered the health ombudsman to investigate the matter. The probe has been welcomed by parliament.

African News Agency (ANA)

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