Psychiatric deaths prosecution to be decided by NPA

National Prosecuting Authority head Shaun Abrahams during a press briefing, 31 October 2016, NPA head Office, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

The Health Minister said the decision on who to prosecute must be taken by those with ‘no political agenda’.

The National Prosecuting Authority must decide who will be held accountable for the deaths of more than 100 psychiatric patients after they were transferred from Life Esidimeni to NGOs.

This is according to Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, who received a grilling on Thursday when he briefed parliament.

The health ombudsman found that only one of the transferred patients died due to a psychiatric-related illness. The others died of hunger, malnutrition, epilepsy and dehydration.

Motsoaledi said action would be taken but this would not be decided by those with a political agenda. He said seven of the unregistered NGOs had been closed down and 600 patients moved to government facilities. “We now have 700 left.”

He added that an operations centre had been established that would be manned 24-hours a day.

“No stone will be left unturned to find out who must be charged. We are deeply sorry. We want to correct the anomalies,” he said.

Democratic Alliance MP Wilmot James said even though Motsoaledi hired the health ombudsman to investigate the deaths, it was already too late. He called for a judicial enquiry.

The report found the patients were hurriedly transferred without their files, making it difficult for their families to locate them. It also stated that officials did not adhere to the Mental Health Policy framework.

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