Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu has reportedly resigned following the deaths of at least 94 mentally ill patients who died in nongovernmental organisations after being moved from the Life Esidimeni centre in Gauteng.
According to reports, she will be replaced by Dr Gwen Ramokgopa.
This comes after Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba revealed on Wednesday that in contrast to much circulated reports the 36 patients died during the transfer, the number was 94 and possibly higher.
“I want to emphasise that this is a provisional number, and the actual number could be more,” Makgoba said when he addressed journalists about the release of his much-awaited report into investigation into the deaths of the psychiatric patients.
“All the 27 NGOs to which patients were transferred operated under invalid licences, therefore all patients who died in these NGOs died in unlawful circumstances.”
Mahlangu’s department terminated its contract with Life Esidimeni citing costs. The more than 1 000 patients were then transferred to NGOs in 2015, 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 they had happened.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) said it was “abundantly clear from the start” that Mahlangu had bungled the transfer of patients, which 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”.