Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu should resign over the deaths of 36 psychiatric patients at the unsuitable NGOs in which they were placed after being discharged from Lifehealthcare Esidimeni.
She persisted in cancelling the long-running contract with Lifehealthcare earlier this year despite warnings that more time was needed to find suitable alternative facilities.
Her disclosure that patients were sent to NGOs without clinical files that included their medical histories shows how reckless these transfers were in putting patients at risk.
Last year she said that NGOs would accommodate 591 patients and 1193 patients would be placed at the Weskoppies, Sterkfontein, Tshwane District and Cullinan Care hospitals, as well as refurbished parts of the Transvaal Memorial Institution (TMI), Pinnar and Old Germiston Hospital.
The promised refurbishment of TMI, Pinnar and Old Germiston Hospital did not happen, and 1002 patients were placed with NGOs, which was far higher than the number originally announced.
36 Patients had Died
Despite protests and complaints by relatives about the poor facilities at many NGOs, Mahlangu claimed that they had been properly vetted and were monitored to ensure good care.
It was only after I asked an official question in the Gauteng Legislature that she revealed the bombshell news that 36 patients had died in the NGOs in a period of about four months.
We do not know at this stage how many patients died at which facility, but there is evidence that at least 7 patients died at Precious Angels in Attridgeville.
Mrs Christine Nxumalo was phoned by Ethel Ncube of Precious Angels on 25 August last year and told that her 50-year-old sister Virginia Machpelah had died on 17 August. She was not even aware that her sister was at this NGO as she was supposed to be at the Cullinan Care Hospital, but was then transferred to Precious Angels.
Nxumalo found her sister’s body at a private undertaker and was told there were six other bodies from Precious Angels. Her sister suffered from Alzheimer’s but was in good condition when she was at Lifehealthcare. Nxumalo has requested an inquest into her sister’s death and a postmortem has been carried out on the body, the results of which are awaited. Nxumalo has also requested the police to do postmortems on the other bodies from Precious Angels.
Postmortems on All Patients
According to Nxumalo, Precious Angels was only registered as a NGO on 9 June this year. With great difficulty she found the house in Atteridgeville where medics had picked up her sister’s body. She found a house with some hospital beds outside, but was refused access by a woman at the door.
According to an official reply to my questions earlier this year, 35 patients were sent to Precious Angels. MEC Mahlangu has now indicated that all the patients from Precious Angels have been transferred to psychiatric hospitals. Other NGOs where patients have been removed include Bokang where 24 were originally placed, and Siyabathanda where 13 were placed (these NGOs are both in Braamfischerville).
Mrs Nxumalo’s information about Precious Angels is highly disturbing. It does not appear that the Gauteng Health Department is doing a proper investigation of the deaths at this fishy NGO as Nxumalo is the one who has been pushing for postmortems on all the patients who died there.
National Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi
I welcome the announcement by National Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi that the Health Ombudsman will investigate the deaths at the NGOs. This investigation needs to be done speedily and professionally to ensure than no evidence is lost.
My view is that nearly all the 36 patients that have died in the last four months would probably still be alive if they were kept at Lifehealthcare Esidimeni.
The ultimate blame falls on MEC Mahlangu who failed to take sufficient steps to ensure the orderly transfer of patients to reputable NGOs. She should resign or be fired by Premier David Makhura.
Jack Bloom MPL
DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Health
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