6 February 2017

South Africa: Health Reviews Licences of 27 NGOs

Photo: Capital FM
(file photo).

Pretoria — The National Department of Health has commenced with processes to review the licences of all the 27 Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) who received patients during the Gauteng Mental Health Marathon Project (GMHMP).

This follows the recommendations of the report issued by the Health Ombudsman, Professor Malegapuru Magoba, following an investigation into the Life Esidimeni tragedy.

Dubbed "No Guns: 94+ Silent Deaths and Still Counting," the report revealed that 94 mentally ill patients died after being removed from Life Healthcare Esidimeni to 27 NGOs.

The report found that all the 27 NGOs to which the patients were transferred operated under invalid licenses and all patients who died there, died under unlawful circumstances.

The provincial government said a government task team has commenced work in preparation for the relocation of mental health patients currently being cared for at various NGOs.

"The team visited the NGOs to establish the correct number of mental health patients currently being cared for at the NGOs.

"Specialists have advised that in transferring patients to suitable institutions everything must be done to avoid any negative impacts on the patients. The five high risk NGOs identified by the report of the Health Ombudsman are being prioritised," said the provincial government.

The representatives of the families were also part of the task team to ensure that families are part of the relocation process.

It said the team will identify public health institutions that are well-equipped to care for the mental health patients.

"All this information will be critical in determining the correct steps as part of relocating the mental health patients."

The newly established team comprised senior officials; specialists in the area of mental health: doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, occupational therapists; and civil society organisations, family representatives.

The team is co-chaired by the Gauteng Director-General (DG) in the Office of the Premier, Phindile Baleni, and the National Health Department DG, Precious Matsoso.

More recommendations implemented

Some of the recommendations made by Magoba - after releasing the report on the circumstances surrounding the deaths of mentally ill patients in Gauteng - include that the GMHMP be de-established. The Gauteng Provincial Government has confirmed that the project has been stopped.

It was also recommended that Gauteng Premier David Makhura consider the suitability of former MEC Qedani Mahlangu as Health MEC in the light of the findings, but she has already resigned.

"Dr Gwen Ramokgopa was sworn in as a Member of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature and appointed as MEC for Health on 6 February."

The provincial government said disciplinary proceedings against officials in the Gauteng Department of Health were initiated on Friday.

The Gauteng Provincial Commissioner has been requested to centralise all cases related to the GMHMP to ensure that they are prioritised for forensic investigations.

It was also recommended that the National Minister of Health and Premier of Gauteng meet with affected families and facilitate a process of Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism.

"Consultations are underway on Alternative Dispute Resolution, particularly with regard to closure and redress.

"The Gauteng Department of Health will work together with the National Department to overhaul mental healthcare in the province. The World Health Organisation has been contacted to provide expert assistance in the re-establishment of quality mental health care in Gauteng."

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