Following reports that 21 Life Esidimeni patients were still missing, the Gauteng health department has reportedly tracked down five of them, bringing the number of missing patients down to 16.
According to the acting director of mental health, Dr Kobie Marais, at the beginning of 2017, there were more than 100 missing patients.
The number dropped to 45 in February 2018, and then to 21 by November 2018. The patients were excluded from the 144 that died after they were handed over to unqualified non-governmental organisations by the department under former MEC Qedani Mahlangu.
According to Gauteng health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa, most of the patients who were recently found were at new addresses where they had moved with their families. Others were re-admitted to special mental health facilities.
“I am encouraged by the progress Dr Kobie Marais and her team are making and reaffirm our determination to continue working relentlessly to leave no stone unturned, doing all in our power and sparing no effort until each of the outstanding unaccounted for on the list is traced,” said Ramokgopa in a statement.
Ramokgopa went on to add that she had personally visited some of the users and their families and some were not aware that there were discrepancies in either name, addresses or even a lack of identity numbers on the records of Life Esidimeni given to the department.
“We are eternally grateful to all stakeholders for their hard work which has seen us making significant progress with the tracing efforts thus far,” said the MEC.
“The department calls on all families and guardians to update contacts with the relevant institutions when such change. I remain optimistic that our task of accounting for all clients will be conducted soonest as we follow up with the SAPS and use any other records.”