Families are anxious over relocation of 400 former Esidimeni patients

The families of about 400 mental patients are anxious about a letter they have received from the Clinix Solomon Stix Morewa (Selby Park) private hospital which indicates that they will be moved elsewhere with little indication of when and where they will go.

Most of these mental patients were formerly at Life Esidimeni and were then rescued from poor conditions at NGOs and placed at private hospitals, including Selby Park in inner city Johannesburg.

The Gauteng Health Department appointed this hospital to care for these mental patients since March 2017 on a four-year contract which expired in April last year. It has been renewed on a month-to-month basis since then subject to a maximum period of 6 months, which ended in September, and then extended for another 6 months, which ends on 31 March this year.

According to the letter sent by the hospital management:

“This means that at any time, on a month’s notice or less, the Department may terminate our services and we will no longer be entrusted with the care of your loved ones.

We are, however, concerned about the short extension periods and the possible impact to you and your loved ones, and if your loved ones relocated to different facilities is not planned well and far ahead in advance. Clinix is in discussion with the Department in this regard.”

I am most concerned by the department’s failure to organise new contracts for the care of hundreds of mental health patients who are once again faced with disruptive relocation at short notice.

Have they learnt nothing from the Life Esidimeni tragedy in which 144 patients died and others suffered terribly because of botched transfers to NGOs that could not care for them?

The Democratic Alliance calls on the department to ensure a smooth transfer to decent facilities and communicate directly with the affected families to allay their anxiety about the welfare of their loved ones.