210 Esidi­meni pa­tients still need to be moved

The Star Late Edition - - NEWS - MASEGO PANYANE masego.panyane@inl.co.za

EIGHTY DAYS af­ter the Health Om­buds­man or­dered the move of Life Esidi­meni men­tally ill pa­tients from un­fit non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions al­most two-thirds of them have fi­nally been trans­ferred.

This was re­vealed by Health MEC Dr Gwen Ramok­gopa at a me­dia brief­ing held by the de­part­ment in Joburg yes­ter­day.

The Gaut­eng De­part­ment of Health was plunged into scan­dal ear­lier this year af­ter a re­port by Health Om­buds­man Pro­fes­sor Male­ga­puru Mak­goba found the de­part­ment had failed to suf­fi­ciently care for men­tally ill pa­tients af­ter the de­part­ment’s con­tract with Life Health­care group was ter­mi­nated and pa­tients were moved from Life Esidi­meni care cen­tres.

The move, part of the prov­ince’s Marathon Men­tal Health Project, re­sulted in the deaths of about 100 pa­tients placed in NGOs, some of which were not equipped to deal with the pa­tients.

Ramok­gopa was joined by act­ing head of de­part­ment Dr Ernest Kenoshi when they fur­ther re­vealed that the dis­ci­plinary process against the 10 of­fi­cials fin­gered in Mak­goba’s re­port was on hold while the in­de­pen­dent tri­bunal ap­pointed by the MEC fi­nalised its work.

Among these of­fi­cials are sus­pended HOD Dr Bar­ney Sele­bano and Dr Mak­gabo Manamela, di­rec­tor of Men­tal Health Ser­vices in the prov­ince.

Ramok­gopa said that 592 pa­tients had been moved in the last 79 days. Some NGOs had been closed, their pa­tients re­moved and their li­cences were cur­rently un­der re­view.

“The min­i­mum num­ber of NGOs closed is five, where we’ve taken all pa­tients out, es­pe­cially those who were es­tab­lished for the Esidi­meni move,” Ramok­gopa said.

“Of the ap­prox­i­mately 800 pa­tients who were in NGOs, about 210 still need to be moved. A few have moved to hos­pi­tals be­cause they were ill, the re­main­der are still in NGOs,” Kenoshi said.

While it ini­tially seemed the de­part­ment had missed the 45 day dead­line to move all pa­tients to ap­pro­pri­ate fa­cili- ties, Ramok­gopa said the dead­line had been ex­tended by the Health Om­bud with the buy-in of the mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary task team that was es­tab­lished.

As it stands, the de­part­ment said all pa­tients would be trans­ferred by end of this month.

Kenoshi said the “ap­pro­pri­ate” fa­cil­i­ties that the depart- ment had iden­ti­fied in­cluded Selby Park Hospi­tal and the Ba­neng Care Cen­tre, one of the Life Health­care cen­tres.

The Ba­neng Cen­tre cared for chil­dren, but had since been made suit­able for adult pa­tients as well.

“At Selby Park, we have un­der 400 pa­tients, and Ba­neng hosts 230 pa­tients. Both are nearly filled to ca­pac­ity but we will start us­ing a third site, Life Health­care Waver­ley.”

On the progress of the dis­ci­plinary hear­ings, Kenoshi said: “We have ap­pointed an at­tor­ney to lead ev­i­dence in a dis­ci­plinary en­quiry against all the oth­ers, eight of them. It will be presided over by an ad­vo­cate. In the case of Dr Manamela and Dr Sele­bano, the dis­ci­plinary cases have been stalled while await­ing the out­come of their ap­peals to the min­is­ter (of health) against the om­buds­man’s re­port.”

Ramok­gopa said an in­terim chair­per­son of the Men­tal Health Care Re­view Board had been ap­pointed. The de­part­ment would also be fo­cus­ing on the re­view­ing of li­cens­ing re­quire­ments for NGOs and en­sur­ing all dead pa­tients were sub­ject to foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tions to de­ter­mine the ex­act causes of death.

The de­part­ment re­vealed that in the last 79 days, at least six pa­tients had died, but Ramok­gopa stressed that the con­di­tions of their deaths were not the same as the ones in NGOs. “They had other med­i­cal con­di­tions they died from,” she said.

SLOW PROGRESS: Dr Gwen Ramok­gopa

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