A proposal by the Democratic Alliance (DA) has been accepted by the Gauteng Legislature’s oversight committee on the premier’s office and legislature (Ocpol) to probe the role of Gauteng Premier David Makhura’s office in the deaths of 94 mental health patients after they were transferred to unlicensed NGOs.
“At the Ocpol meeting on Friday, I pointed out that on page 30 of the health ombud’s report on the matter, the following claim is made by Dr Barney Selebano, the head of the Gauteng health department: ‘The decision to start deinstitutionalisation of mental health care users from Life Healthcare Esidimeni was undertaken in the office of the premier of Gauteng, the Honourable David Makhura, together with the HoD’,” said the DA’s Jack Bloom.
“This claim needs to be investigated, as well as the failure of the premier’s office and the premier himself to effectively monitor the disastrous transfer of patients that led to the deaths.”
This comes after a shocking find by ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba, who laid blame on the Gauteng health department for the deaths of the 94 patients.
More than 1 300 patients were last year transferred from the Life Esidimeni facility to hospitals and 27 unlicensed nongovernmental organisations operating unlawfully. Of the 94, only one person died from a mental-related illness. The rest reportedly died due to, among other things, dehydration, diarrhoea, heart attacks and epilepsy.
Gwen Ramokgopa has since taken over as MEC for health, following the resignation of Qedani Mahlangu, who handed in her notice the night before the release of the report.
“Premier Makhura prides himself on the Ntirhisano Rapid Response War Room but has failed to respond to the concerns of relatives of mental health patients who demonstrated on two occasions outside the headquarters of the Gauteng health department,” Bloom said.
“It is simply not credible that the premier and his office were unaware of the problems and the need for swift intervention.
“The premier also needs to account why he did not fire Mahlangu after she disclosed in response to my questions in the Legislature on September 13, 2016 that 36 patients had died.”