R6m to transfer Life Esidimeni patients from unlicensed NGOs

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It is costing Gauteng Health R6m to transfer the more than 700 surviving Life Esidimeni patients out of unlicensed NGOs, MEC Gwen Ramokgopa is quoted in News24 as saying.

A total of R495 was being spent per patient per day on three meals, washing and cleaning services, and medication, she said. They were being moved to the Life Esidimeni and Clinix Solomon Moreno Hospital, formally Clinix Selby Park hospital.

The report says 94 mentally ill patients died after they were transferred from Life Esidimeni to various NGOs last year, because the department wanted to save money. Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba recommended that the more than 700 remaining patients be moved out of the 22 unlicensed NGOs. More than 63 patients had already been transferred to licensed facilities.

Ramokgopa said she wanted to be held accountable for every Life Esidimeni patient being moved adding that the department had increased its capacity by 20 additional doctors to assess patients daily. She said the department was struggling to get hold of some of the families because some contact numbers were not working. When the department visited the patients’ homes, they found the relatives had moved. The department did not want to rush the process.

She is quoted in the report as saying she did not think more resources could have prevented the deaths. There was much that had gone wrong that was unrelated to the availability of resources.

“The one contributing factor to this unfortunate disaster is that the team that worked on this project, worked in silos.

“We are working with a team that understands mentally ill patients, people that understand that they also have rights and that they need to be well-cared for, even after they have been transferred. The whole department admits that had they been aware, they could have intervened.”

The report says eight people have been suspended: the head of department, the director for mental health services, the chair of the mental health board, and five staff members.

News24 report

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