JOHANNESBURG, 07 February 2017 - In the wake of the Health Ombudsmans shocking finding that psychiatric patients died after being moved last year from Life Esidimeni facilities to NGOs, there are renewed calls for a swift police investigation.
JOHANNESBURG – Gauteng's newly appointed Health MEC, Gwen Ramokgopa, has emphasised the importance of transparency in the Health Department.
In her first media briefing since her new appointment, Ramokgopa updated the public on her department's progress towards implementing the health ombud's recommendations following the Life Esidimeni tragedy.
Over 100 mentally ill patients died when they were moved to ill-equipped NGO’s last year.
Nearly 800 mental health care patients now remain in the care of 22 NGO’s after five were closed. But more movements are planned.
FULL REPORT: 94 mentally ill patients died
“We have been working with the office of the premier and minister- together with the 60 person team of experts to ensure that all the receiving facilities that are in the public sector and private sector are assessed for their capacity and competency to look after the need of the mental health patients that are now transferring from the NGO’s that were found inadequate,” said Ramokgopa.
“I’m happy to announce that we are now ready, we have worked with a rapid response team that will work with specialists that will make sure we contact each and every family member so that before we move any patient we do it in the best interest of the patient,” she said.
The department is also working with experts including police and home affairs to validate records and ensure that all patients are accounted for.
Ramakgopa said those responsible for loss of life are already going through the disciplinary process.
“As far as the rest of the health department, my first intervention is to make sure that we have representatives of the public, the public must regain confidence in their own service the department belongs to them and for that reason I have started a process of filling all vacancies for hospital boards and clinic comities.”
The department said it had the full list of unclaimed bodies and those buried as unknowns and is in the process of contacting relatives.
If you have been affected by this tragedy or if are trying to locate a loved one you can call the Gauteng health department's new 24 hour helpline on these numbers: Gauteng helpline 011 564 2235/2215 Or SMS or Whatsapp this number 082 809 0131