‘STUM­BLING BLOCK’

The Sunday Independent - - METRO - | ROLAND MPOFU

ESIDI­MENI

GAUT­ENG act­ing di­rec­tor for men­tal health Dr Ko­bie Marais has iden­ti­fied the Men­tal Health Act as be­ing a “stum­bling block” in trac­ing the miss­ing 21 Life Esidi­meni pa­tients. Marais said the act pro­hibits the depart­ment from pub­lish­ing the miss­ing pa­tients’ names.

Speak­ing to The Sun­day In­de­pen­dent, Marais said ac­cord­ing to the act the per­son, hu­man dig­nity and pri­vacy of every men­tal health-care user must be re­spected. “We have a list of names, but we can­not pub­lish them due to the con­fi­den­tial­ity of pa­tients. Yes, the Men­tal Health Act does pro­tect the con­fi­den­tial­ity of pa­tients’ in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing their names. Ac­tu­ally, that is a big stum­bling block. It’s an act that pro­tects pa­tients but in this case it makes it harder for us.”

Marais said it was work­ing tire­lessly with other state or­gans to trace th­ese pa­tients. “We have also asked Home Af­fairs again to check for any in­for­ma­tion around th­ese pa­tients. We have also en­gaged the SA So­cial Se­cu­rity Agency (Sassa). The rea­son is that if you are a men­tal health-care user (if you are dis­abled), you can get a so­cial grant. So we are fol­low­ing up again (to es­tab­lish) if those fam­i­lies did not ap­ply for grants on the pa­tient’s name.

“I have also opened a case of the miss­ing pa­tients with the po­lice on March 28 this year. So the po­lice are also sup­port­ing us in find­ing th­ese pa­tients. We are all try­ing to trace the pa­tients. We are all putting in some ef­fort in or­der to find those pa­tients,” she said.

Marais added that all of the pa­tients traced so far were found alive, but none of their fam­i­lies had come for­ward in search of them. “We don’t know where the fam­i­lies are. We just have the pa­tients’ in­for­ma­tion – iden­tity num­bers and names. So we are hope­ful from here that we might find them ei­ther through Home Af­fairs or through the Sassa grants sys­tem, the po­lice or even through our health fa­cil­i­ties.

“My col­leagues in my direc­torate are fol­low­ing up every piece of in­for­ma­tion. We are now look­ing for pa­tients and their fam­i­lies.”

Rand­fontein po­lice spokesper­son Con­sta­ble Carmen Hen­dricks said a case of miss­ing per­sons had been opened and was still un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

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