Parliament’s portfolio committee on health will urgently deal with the 94 mentally ill patients who died under the care of various Gauteng-based NGOs after being transferred by the provincial health department from the Life Esidimeni facility.
Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Wilmot James said he welcomed the committee’s decision by its acting chairperson, Fish Mahlalela, to agree with the party’s requests to deal with the issue at once.
“The committee agreed to request Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to officially table the Esidimeni Report in parliament.
“Health ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba will then present it before the committee for parliament to debate the deaths.”
James commended the decision to do so “as an important step to ensuring that this kind of tragedy will never be repeated”.
“This tragedy has brought to light the severe inadequacies of our healthcare system.
“If South Africa had an efficient healthcare facility surveillance system, we would have been able to prevent these deaths,” James said.
A shocking report by Makgoba released last week laid the blame for the deaths squarely at the door of the Gauteng health department.
More than 1 300 patients were last year transferred from the Life Esidimeni facility to hospitals and 27 unlicensed nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), reported to be 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
Meanwhile, the Gauteng Legislature’s oversight committee on the premier’s office and legislature (Ocpol) is expected to probe the role of Gauteng Premier David Makhura’s office in the deaths.
DA MPL Jack Bloom, at an Ocpol meeting last week, pointed to the report where the claim is made by Gauteng department head Barney Selebano that “the decision to start deinstitutionalisation of mental healthcare users from Life Healthcare Esidimeni was undertaken in the office of Makhura, together with the head of department”.
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.
“The Gauteng premier also needs to explain why he did not fire Mahlangu after she disclosed in response to my questions in the legislature on September 13 last year that 36 patients had died,” Bloom said.