The head of the Gauteng Department of Health has been suspended in the wake of recommendations by Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba following the death of 94 psychiatric patients at non-government organisations.
Head of department Dr Barney Selebalo was suspended with immediate effect, while director for mental health has been served with a notice to suspend her, and has two days to state why she should not be suspended, the provincial government said on Wednesday.
“The suspension and notice of intention to suspend have been effected in line with recommendation two and three of the report released by Health Ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba following the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of mentally ill patients in Gauteng.”
Current CEO of Steve Biko Academic Hospital, Dr Ernest Kenoshi, has been appointed as acting head of department.
Meanwhile, a task team consisting of senior officials; specialists in mental health, civil society organisations and family representatives were continuing with their work to inspect the various NGOs that still have patients who were transferred from Life Healthcare Esidimeni, the province said.
So far, 20 NGOs have been visited and the process would be concluded on Friday.
“The team is also working towards identifying institutions that are well equipped to care for the mentally ill patients in compliance with the Mental Health Care Act (2002). During the inspection, the members of the task team also and examining some of the patients. Family members are constantly engaged on these developments and have representatives in the advisory teams,” the provincial government said.
The recently released health ombudsman report said as many as 94 mentally ill patients who were transferred from Life Healthcare Esidimeni to unlicensed care centres died of causes that included neglect and starvation.
Following the release of the damning report into psychiatric patients’ deaths — who died after they were transferred from provincial government contractor Life Esidimeni Centre to 27 NGO’s around the province former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu resigned. In contrast to a figure of 36 fatalities given by Mahlangu in the provincial legislature last year, at least 94 psychiatric patients out of 1300 had died between March and December 2016.
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 licenses.
Mahlangu will be replaced by incumbent Deputy Minister of Health, Gwen Ramokgopa, a medical doctor and a former mayor of the City of Tshwane. She previously served as Gauteng Health MEC from 1999 to 2006.
– African News Agency