Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba will on Wednesday release the long-awaited report into the deaths of 36 mentally ill patients after they were moved from Life Esidimeni centre to several nongovernment organisations (NGOs) in Gauteng.
Health Minister Elias Motsoaledi ordered the investigation following the deaths, with opposition parties and the families calling for Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu’s head.
Mahlangu’s department terminated its contract with Life Esidimeni, citing costs. The more than 1 000 patients were then transferred to NGOs in 2015, and 36 of them died within three months of the transfer.
According to recent media reports, a leaked report by Makgoba showed that at least 71 patients died, a higher figure than the 36 deaths Mahlangu revealed in September last year in response to questions from the Gauteng legislature.
The report also recommended that Premier David Makhura fire Mahlangu, blaming her for the bungling of the patients’ transfer.
The official report was scheduled to be released three weeks ago, but was delayed after Mahlangu requested more time to study the report.
Families of the deceased blamed the department for the mishandling of the transfers and deaths of their loved ones. Some said they were not informed about the whereabouts of their relatives and were sent from pillar to post by the department. They also blamed the department for not informing them immediately about the deaths and how it all happened.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) said it was “abundantly clear from the start” that Mahlangu had bungled the transfer of patients that led to the deaths. The party’s health spokesperson in Gauteng Jack Bloom said Mahlangu should have resigned or been fired long ago “for her inexcusable neglect”.