‘Some patients being favoured over others’
UNLICENSED and licensed NGOs in Gauteng have decried new licensing requirements and funding methods which, they say, favour the Life Esidimeni users to the detriment of their psychiatric patients.
The NGOs were reacting to the Gauteng Department of Health announcement that it has contracted and fully licensed 64 mental health NGOs which house psychiatric patients across the province. According to MEC Sizakele NkosiMalobane, who disclosed this last week on behalf of MEC for Health, Dr Gwen Ramokgopa, during an oral legislature response, 62 NGOs who still have outstanding licensing requirements have been contracted in the interim until all the documentation has been submitted.
Nkosi-Malobane said the Department of Health has been working closely with all the NGOs in capacity-building initiatives and educational awareness campaigns on the new national guidelines on NGO licensing requirements.
However, the NGOs, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the department was prioritising the patients who have been moved back to Esidimeni.
“We are getting a subsidy of R2 278 per patient per month but Esidimeni patients are paid more that R10 000 per user per month.
“This form of funding means we cannot offer our users the best care, such as employing full-time nursing staff and other therapeutic treatments which they are supposed to get,” said one source.
The Sunday Independent visited one of the centres, which caters for more than 100 patients.
Some of the patients were sitting out in the sun, trying to get warm, due to adequate clothing because of the centre’s lack of funding.
The centre manager said they were not able to raise funds or get donor funding because they have not been licensed.
Asked why the centre has not yet been fully licensed, the manager said: “We are struggling to raise the more than R60 000 required to obtain a zoning or a rezoning certificate and occupancy certificate. The department has been promising to assist us but nothing has been forthcoming. We don’t know if we will still be operational within the next six months,” she said.
Gauteng health spokesperson Prince Hamnca confirmed that the NGOs were paid R2 734 a month per mental health care user while those at Life Esidimeni were paid R14 850 a month.
“These patients (Esidimeni) are still not 100% medically stable and need more professional care and rehabilitation. Contracted care costs the department R495 per patient per day,” said Hamnca.
Hamnca said the department will increase the tariffs by 20% and this will be implemented in due course.
According to Nkosi-Malobane the new licensing dispensation is more comprehensive. It requires a copy of the constitution of the NPO, zoning or rezoning certificate, occupancy certificate, certificate of acceptability of food handling, health certificate, copy of the list of board members, copy of business plan with costing for proposed activities, proof of property ownership or lease agreement, SAPS clearance certificate and tax clearance certificate, among others.
“A capacity-building workshop was convened with NGOs on the new national guidelines on licensing requirements. All NGOs are legally contracted and subject to support and monitoring by the district team,” Nkosi-Malobane said.
Some of the NGOs complained about intimidation by the Gauteng department. “We are told that if we speak to the media we won’t be issued with our operating licences,” said the source.
When asked about the allegations of intimidation, Hamnca said if any intimidation occurs NGOs are encouraged to lodge their complaint with the Gauteng Department of Health.
Meanwhile DA Jack Bloom said he was concerned that mental health NGOs in Gauteng that look after about 3 000 patients are struggling to meet new licensing requirements that were imposed after the Esidimeni tragedy.
“Some NGOs may be forced to close because of the extra expense, with dire consequences for patients who will be unlikely to find alternative care.
“The Gauteng Health Department needs to do far more to assist mental health NGOs to meet the new licensing requirements, otherwise thousands of patients could lose vitally needed care.
“I hope that the Esidimeni lesson has been learnt so that struggling NGOs are properly assisted before it is too late and they have to close,” said Bloom.
WE ARE GETTING A SUBSIDY OF R2 278 PER PATIENT PER MONTH