Court dismisses application on mentally ill patients

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The High Court in Johannesburg has dismissed an urgent application trying to prevent the Gauteng Health Department from discharging 54 patients from Life Esidimeni hospital which houses about 2,000 mental health patients, reports News24. “The court agreed with the department that it has not reneged on an agreement reached with Sadag and other organisations in December 2015,” said department spokesperson, Steve Mabona. “And as such the department should continue with its plans to discharge and place those who still need medical care to different facilities.”

The report says SA Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag), the SA Federation for Mental Health and the SA Society for Psychiatrists had jointly brought the urgent application before the High Court on Monday.

Sadag director, Cassey Chambers, said at the time that the reason for the application was because the organisations had been made aware that 54 patients had been earmarked to be moved to the Takalani Home for the Mentally Handicapped in Diepkloof, Soweto.

The report says they were concerned about the move because as the group of 54 comprised adult patients with profound clinical and mental disabilities, including cerebral palsy and schizophrenia, who needed specialised treatment and care.

The report says the department and the hospital had reached a settlement agreement in December last year to terminate its contract with the hospital group, which served more than 2,000 patients aged between 24 and 101. The hospital, which was based in Randfontein on the West Rand, provided in-patient care, treatment, and rehabilitation for people with chronic psychiatric disorders and severe intellectual disabilities.

The department denied claims by Chambers that it had kept affected parties in the dark about moving the patients to Takalani, the report said. “The department has kept everyone concerned informed about plans to place patients at various NGOs as part of winding up services with Life Esidimeni, as the contract with the institution will be coming to an end on 30 June, 2016,” Mabona said. He said the decision to discharge the patients was made by doctors, based on clinical reasons.

Although the court’s decision was disappointing, Chambers is quoted in the report as saying that the organisations would continue to fight for the rights of the patients.

MEC Qedani Mahlangu welcomed the court’s decision but promised to continue liaising with the affected stakeholders to ensure no patient would be neglected or thrown out on to the streets as result of the contract termination.

Full News24 report

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