No end to crisis at Thelle Mogoerane hospital as another psychiatric patient dies

by Jack Bloom MPL – DA Gauteng Shadow Health MEC

The crisis at the Thelle Mogoerane Hospital continues as the death of another psychiatric patient is covered up and the source of the antibiotic-resistant Klebsiella that has killed 6 babies has still not been found.
According to unions at the hospital, a psychiatric patient committed suicide at the psychiatric ward on Friday 14 September this year.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa held a press conference at the hospital on Sunday 16 September on the Klebsiella crisis, but did not disclose the death of this psychiatric patient.
This is the third death of a psychiatric patient in less than a year – a patient hanged himself in October 2017 and another patient died after jumping out a window in June this year.
There is one psychiatric ward at the hospital that can accommodate 10 males and 10 females, but this is grossly inadequate as 163 psychiatric patients had to be placed in ordinary wards from March 2017 to July this year, according to a written reply by Ramokgopa to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.
There is no camera monitor in the psychiatric ward which could have prevented the latest suicide in which the patient hanged himself using hospital pajamas turned into a rope.
There are currently 43 psychiatric patients at the hospital with only four nurses on duty and no full-time psychiatrist.
Meanwhile, the neonatal ward where babies died is still open despite the announcement by Minister Motsoaledi that it would be closed and babies would be moved to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital until it was thoroughly cleaned up.
This is another blow to Motsoaledi’s shredded credibility as he always intervenes too late, as happened in the Esidimeni tragedy where 144 psychiatric patients died, and in the KZN cancer disaster where more than 500 cancer patients died.
I have always suspected that management at this hospital is thoroughly rotten as I have repeatedly been refused access to do oversight, and staff concerns about safety, understaffing and infection hazards have been brushed aside for a long time.
The Hospital CEO Dr Nomonde Mqhayi-Mbambo has been put on special leave with full pay, but she should have been fired long ago.
I have been told that she has boasted that she is untouchable because she is the niece of Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle.
If this is confirmed, it would explain why she has been protected for so long by MEC Ramokgopa who should share the blame for the deaths of the babies and psychiatric patients.
Premier David Makhura should fire Ramokgopa for her failure to prevent the Thelle Mogoerane hospital horror and for the fire at her head office where she ignored safety warnings and three firefighters died.
It is unconscionable that lives are lost because the ANC protects its comrades and cronies.

Former Health MEC can now be subpoenaed over Esidimeni tragedy


Former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu can now by subpoenaed to appear before the Esidimeni arbitration hearings as it has been confirmed in a report today that she is studying at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

According to reliable sources, she flew from South Africa to Heathrow International Airport in London on July 29.

It is essential that she accounts for her actions as she insisted on cancelling the Esidimeni contract for mental health patients despite warnings that this would result in disaster.

She also intimidated officials in the transfer of patients to illegally registered NGOs where they died, and tried to cover up what was happening.

Relatives of the deceased patients are unanimous that she be summonsed to the arbitration hearings, and their wishes should be respected.

They will not have closure until they hear the full truth from the person most responsible for this immense human tragedy.

I hope that Justice Dikgang Moseneke gets her London address from the university and does what is legally necessary for her to appear before him, probably at a special sitting as the hearings are due to conclude this week.

Psychiatric patient slits throat at Soweto hospital


I am appalled at the report that a psychiatric patient attempted to commit suicide by cutting his throat at the Bheki Mlangeni Hospital in Soweto.

This would not have happened if there were proper facilities for psychiatric patients at this hospital.

The 20-year-old schizophrenic patient Thabang Xaba slit his throat after being admitted to the hospital on Monday, and was rushed to the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital in a critical state.

According to his mother, Hummy Xaba, the hospital had failed to keep him restrained or sedated after his admission.

I have warned previously about the lack of suitable facilities at this hospital for psychiatric patients.

The following incidents have occurred at the hospital since January last year:

  • 22 July 2016 – a 34 year old patient jumped out of a bathroom window and died;
  • 24 December 2016 – a 13 year old patient ran out of the ward and accessed the ante -natal ward on the 1st floor, jumped out of the balcony from the passage door and sustained injuries to his right wrist; and
  • 18 January 2017 – a 23 year patient injured his head after running out the ward post admission, pulling out the restraints and running towards the second floor balcony

It is most distressing that care for psychiatric patients is still not getting the attention it deserves even after the Esidimeni tragedy.

109 psychiatric patients can’t be discharged because facilities are unavailable

109 psychiatric patients cannot be discharged from state psychiatric hospitals in Gauteng because no suitable facility can be found for them.

This was revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

It costs about R6.8 million a month to keep these patients in the three psychiatric hospitals as per the following:

Weskoppies Hospital – 51 patients costing R53 000 a month each
Sterkfontein Hospital – 38 patients costing R47 000 a month each
Tara Hospital – 18 patients costing R129 000 a month each

Ramokgopa says that patients are discharged when they are stable, as assessed by a multi-disciplinary professional team.

If they are unable to live on their own or their is no family to accept them they are discharged to Contracted Care Centres or licensed NGOs nearest their home or area of origin.

The subsidy for mental health patients in approved NGOs ranges from R1249 to R4096 per month.

The solution is to increase the subsidy so that more NGOs are able to take discharged psychiatric patients and provide the continuing care that they need.

Meanwhile, many patients desperately need treatment at psychiatric hospitals but cannot be admitted because beds are occupied by patients who should have been discharged.

This is not a good situation and changes are needed so that psychiatric patients get good care at every level of the system.

DA welcomes intervention at Bheki Mlangeni Hospital


I welcome the measures announced today by Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa to fix the deep-seated problems at the Bheki Mlangeni Hospital in Soweto.

This intervention is long overdue and follows a sex for jobs scandal and other irregularities in the hiring of staff. The hospital also suffers because telephone lines have been cut because of non-payment.

I am relieved that psychiatric patients will no longer be referred to the hospital as I warned in March this year that the psychiatric facilities were inadequate and had led to a suicide and injuries to patients.

The hiring of six more doctors will assist in providing a better service.

The MEC has set up an intervention team that will work for three months to stabilize the hospital.

There were high hopes when this hospital was opened in May 2014 but it has been plagued by management problems that I hope will now be solved.

DA Gauteng debates Motion on Hospital Boards


The following speeches were delivered in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature today by DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Health, Jack Bloom MPL and DA Gauteng Spokesperson on SCOPA, Dr Heinrich Volmink MPL, during a debate on Hospital Boards and Clinic Committees in Gauteng.

Jack Bloom MPL

“Stronger boards can attract donors to improve quality care in hospitals”

• An effective Hospital Board and Clinic Committee can perform an invaluable role in raising the standards of health treatment;
• Donors are more likely to give when they are approached by a public-spirited board member with a specific project in mind. The Department should be encouraging this and making sure that they are making use of the skills and experience of those who give of their time to help our hard-pressed hospitals and clinics;
• Boards or Committees must actually have the powers and influence to do something about problems that they identify, they should be empowered to act.

The full speech can be obtained here.

Dr Heinrich Volmink MPL

“’You can’t manage what you can’t measure’”

• Out of 369 facilities in the province, only 143 have fully complemented Clinic Committees. This means that 226, or about 6 out of every 10 of the facilities do not have fully complemented Committees and, in fact, 39 out of those facilities have no Clinic Committees at all;
• If we consider how imperative good governance is to quality of care and then reflect on these deficiencies, we begin to understand some of the Department’s performance challenges; such as why, for example, only 71 out of 300 clinics measured in the province reached Ideal Clinic status;
• In terms of developing the capacity of these bodies, we would encourage the MEC to consider the DA’s Health Policy proposal entitled “Our Health Plan” where we emphasize the independence of such bodies so that they can fulfil their governance duties unencumbered by undue political influence.

The full speech can be obtained here.

934 cancer patients waiting for treatment at Steve Biko Hospital

934 cancer patients are waiting for radiation treatment at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria, with delays caused by broken machinery earlier this year and a shortage of radiographers.

This was disclosed on my visit to the hospital yesterday with my colleague Dr Neil Campbell MPL. We wanted to assess conditions at the cancer unit and were escorted by Acting Hospital CEO Dr Mathabo Mathebula.

In February and March this year two of the four radiation machines could not be used because broken air-conditioning led to dangerous over-heating.

We were assured that the air-conditioning has been fixed and all the radiation machines can now be used, but a backlog has developed because of the down-time.

Another problem is that there are only 20 radiographers but 31 are ideally required to make best use of the machines.

Ten radiographers have left in the last year, and only 8 radiographers have been recruited to replace them.

Patients currently wait about one month to see a doctor, and will receive radiation treatment two months after being scanned. This three month delay decreases the survival chances of cancer patients.

Staff told us that there has been a sharp increase in cancer cases, many coming from other provinces and a significant number from other countries.

The most common cancers are breast, cervical, head and neck, and prostate.

I am concerned that there is a large backlog of cancer cases which is being worsened by the shortage of radiographers.

More radiographers should be recruited urgently and private hospitals should be contracted to cut the backlog.

5 year wait for a hip operation at Bara Hospital


11 736 patients are waiting for operations at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, and the longest waiting time is five years for a hip operation.

This information was disclosed yesterday by Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa in an oral reply to my questions at a sitting of the Gauteng Legislature.

She also said that 1824 operations had been cancelled for various reasons at the hospital last year.

I am astounded that so many patients are waiting for operations at this hospital.

The number has increased dramatically in the last two years as 4846 patients were waiting for surgery at the hospital in 2015 according to a previous reply to my questions in the Legislature.

Part of the problem is the high number of cancelled operations due to machinery breakdowns and staff shortages.

The surgery backlog should never have been allowed to grow so high at this hospital.

Patients suffer when they have to wait so long for surgery. It is inhuman to ask people to wait five years for a hip operation.

Special measures should be introduced to cut the surgery waiting lists, including extended operating hours and a partnership with the private health sector.

Life Esidimeni patients still at unlicensed NGO’s


Fifty-nine days have passed since the Health Ombudsman released his report on the deaths of mental health patients who were transferred from Life Esidimeni.

In his report, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba recommended as follows:
“All patients from Life Esidimeni currently placed in unlawful NGOs must be urgently removed and placed in appropriate Health Establishments within the Province where competencies to take care of their specialized needs are constantly available, this must be done within 45 days to reduce risk and save life; simultaneously, a full assessment and costing must be undertaken.”

This 45-day deadline was passed two weeks ago, but the majority of Esidimeni patients, perhaps as many as 500 patients, are still with the NGOs.


I acknowledge the difficulty in finding alternative suitable facilities and to move with due care in not repeating the failures in the previous transfers of patients, but we need to be kept up to date with the transfers.


It appears that the Selby Park Clinic and Life Esidimeni facilities will take most of the patients but need time to prepare properly for this.


The Gauteng Health Department should disclose the full reasons for the delay and a timetable for the transfers to be concluded as soon as possible.

Media Enquiries

Jack Bloom MPL
DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Health
082 333 4222

Stoffel Park should be upgraded not dismantled


The Stoffel Park informal settlement in Mamelodi East should be upgraded rather than dismantled.

I was shocked to see on my visit there yesterday the empty spaces where shacks had been destroyed and more than two thousand people brutally removed to Pienaarspoort earlier this year.

I first visited Stoffel Park in August 2013, and I stayed the night there in the shack of Mr Jimmy Nkuna.

It was one of more than 100 visits to informal settlements that I did on one day a month for two-and-a-half years, including spending the night in 30 shacks to experience what it was like to live there and see what I could do to help.

Jimmy Nkuna is a young disabled man who gets around in a wheelchair, and is threatened with a forced removal to Pienaarspoort.

I gave him a copy of my book “30 Nights in a Shack – A Politician’s Journey”, which makes a plea for forgotten people in informal settlements to be assisted to uplift themselves.

Together with DA list councillor Magic Mampuru, I also met with Mr Stoffel Motloutsi, the founder of the settlement, who expressed determination that residents wanted to stay and have proper services provided.

I was pleased on the one hand that the council had fixed the bridge that residents had built to provide access to the area, and that gravel had been put on the main sand road.

On the other hand, residents told me of how the council had forcibly relocated people without any warning, picking on female-headed households who provided the least resistance.

They said that Pienaarspoort was a bleak place without services.

Stoffel Park residents have invested a lot of effort and money in setting up this settlement which is on council-owned land.

There are a number of brick houses in Stoffel Park and many other sturdily built structures that residents have built.

The DA has gone to the Human Rights Commission to prevent any further removals.

I hope that the Tshwane Metro Council recognizes the human rights of Stoffel Park residents and consults with them to provide title deeds and proper services.

Media enquiries:
Jack Bloom MPL
DA Gauteng Member of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature
082 333 4222