The Health and Other Service Personnel Trade Union (Hospersa) on Thursday joined calls for a criminal prosecution of those involved in the deaths of 94 mentally ill patients in the Gauteng.
In a statement released on Thursday, Hospersa secretary Noel Desfontaines said: “Hospersa would suggest that the MEC and everyone implicated face criminal charges. While her resignation was a good starting point, we can never allow that to absolve her from taking responsibility of people paying the ultimate price for maladministration.”
Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba revealed on Wednesday that in contrast to a figure of 36 fatalities given by Mahlangu in the provincial legislature last year, at least 94 psychiatric patients out of 1 300 had died between March and December 2016 after they were moved from the department’s contractor, Life Esidimeni, to several non-government organisations in the province.
According to the report, the patients were transferred to NGOs that lacked basic competence and experience. They also did not have the leadership capacity to care for mentally ill patients and were operating under invalid licences. The number could have risen, as the rest of the patients remain at the NGOs.
Makgoba’s investigation found that the death of only one patient was a consequence of mental illness, while the causes of death of the other 93 included malnutrition, heart attacks and diarrhea.
Mahlangu resigned on Wednesday, on the eve of the release of the report. She is to be be replaced by incumbent Deputy Minister of Health Gwen Ramokgopa.
“Hospersa sends its heartfelt and sincere condolences to the loved ones of the patients who passed away,” said Desfontaines.
“Mentally ill persons are some of the most vulnerable members of our society and their suffering is often unseen and unheard. They often live on the periphery of society and the way that they now paid the ultimate price for the poor management process of our government is totally unacceptable,” he added.
“Unfortunately, poor management and poor decision-making has become endemic in the public service of late, and nowhere does it have a more human face than in public health,” said Desfontaines.
– African News Agency (ANA)