Slow progress by police in Esidimeni deaths

25 May 2017

Gauteng police cannot give a date when investigations will be finalised concerning the deaths of more than 100 mental health patients transferred last year from Esidimeni to unsuitable NGOs.

According to a written reply by Gauteng Community Safety MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature, police are conducting 22 inquests but have been delayed by difficulties in identifying bodies.

The inquests have been lodged at the following police stations, which are all in Tshwane, related to where the deaths occurred:

Atteridgeville – 5 cases

Pretoria West – 4 cases

Pretoria Central – 3 cases

Cullinan – 10 cases

The Randfontein police are investigating murder, culpable homicide and corruption charges against former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu which were laid by ANC Gauteng Youth League Chairperson Matome Chiloane, EFF MPL Mandisa Mashego and myself.

According to Nkosi-Malobane, the following is outstanding for all inquest dockets:

– the total number of deceased persons

– the addresses and particulars of NGOs

– the statement of the authority person who approved the transfer of patients to the NGO

– the chain statements on the handling of the deceased from Precious Angel to Kalafong Hospital

– the chain statements on the handling of the body from Kalafong Hospital to the pathologist

– photographs taken during the post mortem examinations

– medical records kept by Precious Angels

– medical records of the deceased from Life Esidimeni

– hospital records from Kalafong

– statements from families of the deceased

– statements from the relevant person from the Department of Health

– statements from the owner of Precious Angels

I am concerned that easily obtainable information like the addresses of NGOs has still not been obtained by the police who don’t even know exactly how many people died.

It seems that inquests are only being done into deaths at the Tshwane-based NGOs, but many deaths took place in other parts of Gauteng. Why are these other deaths not being investigated as well?

Police incompetence should not delay justice in bringing to account all those implicated in the deaths.

National Police Minister Fikile Mbalula should ensure that top detectives are used to speed up the investigation which is unacceptably slow.

Patients at Esidimeni Baneng Centre get good care in private/public partnership

Mental health patients at the Baneng Care Centre run by Life Esidimeni in Roodepoort receive good care in a cost-effective private/public partnership with the Gauteng Health Department.

I observed this on a visit to the centre yesterday (17 May) with my colleague Dr Neil Campbell MPL.

The Baneng Centre looks after 275 severely mentally impaired children who were mercifully not transferred to unlicensed NGOs last year as occurred with other Esidimeni patients.

In addition, there are now 188 adult patients who were recently sent there from the NGOs as per the recommendations of the Health Ombudsman in his report which found that more than 100 patients had died after the Gauteng Health Department cancelled its contract last year with Esidimeni for about 1900 patients.

Many of the patients, including all the children, are completely dependent and require round-the-clock care.

Senior management showed us the spotlessly clean facilities which include recreational opportunities for the more high-functioning patients.

Baneng is paid R488 per day for each patient according to Esidimeni’s new contract with the Department. This amounts to about R15000 per month for each patient, which is similar to the rate paid for about 400 former Esidimeni patients who are now at the Selby Park Hospital in inner city Johannesburg.

Esidimeni and its predecessor companies have been providing care for severely impaired mental health patients for 50 years in a long-running partnership which started with the national health department and was then transferred to the provincial health department.

A study commissioned by the Gauteng Health Department in 2015 found that Esidimeni provided good value for money because of economies of scale. The rate then was R320 per patient per day, which amounted to about R10 000 per patient per month.

The increased rate now paid to Esidimeni and Selby Park is due to increased staffing requirements set by the Department.

But the costs for patients in state hospitals are much higher according to the following figures given in the Health Ombudsman’s report:

Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital – R1960 per patient per day or about R60 000 per patient per month.

Sterkfontein Psychiatric Hospital – R1386 per patient per day or about R43 000 per patient per month.

Cullinan Care and Rehabilitation Centre – R1486 per patient per day or about R46 000 per patient per month.

The tragedy is that a long-running successful private/public partnership with Esidimeni was terminated for alleged budgetary reasons but resulted in avoidable deaths and increased costs.

According to National Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi there are currently 789 patients at Selby Park and the two Esidimeni facilities (Baneng and Waverley) and 461 former Esidimeni patients are at Weskoppies, Sterkfontein and other state hospitals.

If we include the 275 child patients at Baneng, the total cost for 1064 patients at private health facilities is now about R190 million a year, and the yearly cost for the 461 patients at state hospitals is about R276 million.

The total cost amounts to about R466 million a year, which is more than double the R222 million a year that was previously paid to Esidimeni for 1900 patients.

More state mental patients should be moved to private facilities like Esidimeni and Selby Park that can provide quality care at a lower cost.

Calls For SANDF In Wake Of Baby Singalakha’s Death An Indictment Of MEC Mayathula-Khoza

The death of six month old baby Singalakha Sonamazi, an avoidable tragedy, highlights the inability of Gauteng Social Development MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza to do her job.

The strike emphasised that MEC Mayathula-Khoza had not adequately prepared to ensure that the elderly, disabled and young placed in her care would be looked after while social workers were not on hand.

Calls by the MEC to resort to deploying the South African Defence Force to mitigate the damage caused by the strike shows that the MEC is completely out of touch with the needs of those who are in the care of her department. The department has the budget and the resources to deal with a crisis of this nature – calls for the SANDF to be deployed are beyond ludicrous.

Reports that children had been hurriedly moved to NGO’s from Child and Youth Care Centre’s is reminiscent of the Esidimeni tragedy which cost more than 100 patients their lives.

The death of baby Singalakha is the result of such a rushed decision by the MEC who must be held accountable for this needless loss of life.

The DA will visit Bethany Trust Home in Krugersdorp to ascertain what happened to baby Singalakha and her siblings, and to gauge what assistance the home received from the Department of Social Development.




Media Enquiries

Refiloe Nt’sekhe MPL
DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Social Development
060 558 8297
Warren Gwilt
DA Economic Cluster Manager
073 601 6144

[Image source]

Nandi Mayathula-Khoza Must Be Held Accountable For Baby’s Death

Gauteng Social Development MEC, Nandi Mayathula-Khoza must take decisive action to ensure that there are no more fatalities during the strike by social development workers.

The death of a baby who was transferred to an NGO from a state facility in the wake of the strike speaks volumes to the lack of concern that this ANC-led administration has for those that are at the mercy of its care.

The DA would like to pass on its condolences to the family who lost their child, in a similar manner to those who lost loved ones during the Esidimeni tragedy.

MEC Mayathula-Khoza must shoulder the blame for this death, as it is her responsibility to ensure that contingency measures are put in place during a period of dispute by workers.

The DA will question the MEC to understand how this tragedy was allowed to take place and what measures have been put in place to ensure that an incident such as this never takes place again.



Media Enquiries

Refiloe Nt’sekhe MPL
DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Social Development
060 558 8297
Warren Gwilt
DA Economic Cluster Manager
073 601 6144

NGO Threatens Brother Of Deceased Patient

Shammah House NGO

I am appalled that the Shammah House NGO has threatened the brother of a deceased mental health patient who was sent there from Life Esidimeni last year.

Mr Mike Thlolwe (60) died at Shammah House in Cullinan on 12 February this year shortly before an ambulance was to take him to hospital.

Last week on Thursday the NGO sent a letter from a law firm to his brother Ike Thlolwe threatening him with legal action if he did not retract public statements blaming them for poor treatment of his brother.

Health Ombudsman’s Recommendation

According to the legal letter “Our instructions are that our client attended to your brother’s health and welfare according to best practice and followed every relevant protocol … Our client reserves its rights to take any legal action should they become aware of any untrue, unfounded or defamatory statements or insinuations in respect of their conduct.”
Shammah is acting in a very inappropriate and insensitive manner.

I have reported this to Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa and requested her to intervene to resolve this matter.

I am also concerned that Shammah has reportedly been offered a contract by the Gauteng Health Department to continue to accommodate 44 mental health patients.

This is despite the Health Ombudsman’s recommendation that former Esidimeni patients be moved from the unlicensed NGOs.

We need to know that all mental health patients are in suitable facilities that are regularly monitored by health officials.



Media Enquiries
Jack Bloom MPL
DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Health
082 333 4222
Image source

DA Supports Relatives Of Psychiatric Patients

Life Healthcare Esidimeni

The Democratic Alliance supports the protest march today in central Johannesburg by relatives of 1900 psychiatric patients who will be discharged at the end of March because of the cancellation of the contract between the Gauteng Health Department and Life Healthcare Esidimeni.

They have every right to be concerned as the Department has made little progress in finding alternative places for the discharged patients.

The promised renovations have not been made to the identified facilities, which include the old Germiston hospital, empty wards at Weskoppies and Sterkfontein, the Dan Pienaar creche in Parktown and the old nurses residence at the Transvaal Memorial Institute opposite Constitution Hill. The latter two buildings are derelict.

Human Disaster

Existing NGOs do not have the capacity to take large numbers either.

My view is that the Department should extend the contract with Esidimeni for at least another 6 months, otherwise there will be a human disaster if the patients are forced onto the streets.

I will raise this issue at the Health Committee of the Gauteng Legislature.


Media enquiries:

Jack Bloom MPL

DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Health

082 333 4222

[Image source]