Seven hundred mental patients in the Eastern Cape are at risk‚ with the Life Esidimeni facility in Kirkwood facing closure after its contract was only extended to December. The Times reports that the decision not to renew the contract flies in the face of several warnings that the non-governmental sector in the province does not have the capacity or training to care for most of the patients.
It follows the distressing Life Esidimeni saga in 2017 when 144 psychiatric patients died after the Gauteng Health Department terminated its contract with the Life Esidimeni group in that province and moved the patients to ill equipped NGOs.
The report says the Eastern Cape Health Department’s contract with Life Esidimeni Kirkwood expires at the end of September and officials have only agreed to extend it for three months while they “test the market”. Life Esidimeni says it has not been told yet that the contract will not be renewed.
The report says the decision comes days after Health Ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba asked health minister Aaron Motsoaledi to appoint an administrator to oversee mental health in the Eastern Cape. He said the department had clearly demonstrated time and again that it was “incapable of recovering or correcting by itself and without the assistance of an external tough task master or administrator”.
Provincial health spokesperson Lwandile Sicwetsha is quoted in the report as saying the contract for the Life Esidimeni Kirkwood Care Centre would expire on 30 September and had been extended for three months only while the department tested the market.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance (DA) says that the Gauteng provincial government has received 200 new claims for compensation from families of Life Esidimeni patients. DA Gauteng Health spokesperson Jack Bloom is quoted in The Times as saying that the new claims were revealed by Thomas Masebe‚ the premier’s spokesperson‚ at a recent meeting of the Gauteng Legislature’s Oversight Committee on the Premier’s Office and Legislature.
Masebe reportedly said most of these claims had been verified and would be covered by the arbitration ruling justice Dikgang Moseneke made in March this year.
The report says the hearings were held and the ruling made after at least 144 psychiatric patients died. They died when 1‚711 patients were moved from Life Esidimeni homes into ill-equipped and underfunded NGOs in Gauteng in 2016. Moseneke ruled families of the mental patients should each receive R20‚000 for their funeral expenses‚ R180‚000 for shock and psychological trauma and R1m in constitutional damages.
According to Bloom: “Masebe said that one of the ways that this would be funded would be to top-slice all provincial government departments to pay for it‚ done on a proportional basis.” Bloom added: “It’s a steep but necessary cost to provide redress to those who suffered‚ although it will affect service delivery in the province as money will be redirected from other projects.”
The report says the Gauteng executive council said in June it had settled all claims linked to the Life Esidimeni tragedy. “The office of the premier paid a total sum of R159.46m to all the 134 claimants who were part of the alternative dispute resolution process. All payments were concluded by 13 June 2018‚ ahead of the deadline of June 19 set by Justice Moseneke‚” the office of Gauteng premier David Makhura said at the time.