Gauteng Health drags its heels on professional misconduct reports

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Half of the doctors and nurses responsible for the Life Esidimeni tragedy still have not been reported to their professional associations, Bhekisisa reports.

The tragedy entailed 2 000 state mental health users being moved from private Life Esidimeni health facilities, paid for by the government, to largely ill-equipped nongovernmental organisations in 2016. At least 144 patients died during the move.

To practice in South Africa, nurses must register with according to information from the South African Nursing Council (SANC). while all other professional healthcare workers must be on the rolls of the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). Both bodies can revoke people’s ability to practice if they are found guilty of misconduct.

The report says Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba and former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke – who presided over an arbitration that ended in March into the ordeal – recommended that the top nurses and doctors embroiled in the deadly scandal be brought before either SANC or the HPCSA. The Gauteng Health Department only reported Barney Selebano, the former head of the department and also a medical doctor, to the HPCSA in December 2017 – more than 10 months after Makgoba’s initial recommendation.

He has yet to sit in front of a preliminary committee of inquiry, which investigates cases of alleged misconduct and is still able to practice pending the outcome of his case.

The report says three nurses were also implicated in the tragedy: former director of mental health Makgabo Manamela and her deputy Hannah Jacobus, as well as chair of the Gauteng Mental Health Review Board Dumi Masondo. Review boards such as these are provincial bodies tasked with helping to safeguard mental health patients’ well-being. Together with the former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu, Manamela and Selebano spearheaded the Life Esidimeni project.

The report says Moseneke found that Jacobus and Masondo should have done more to stop the moves. A funeral home operated by Masondo – called the African Queens of Africa – received at least R14,000 to transport the bodies of Life Esidimeni patients, arbitration testimony revealed.

However, SANC communication’s manager Adri van Eeden, revealed that only one of these three officials has been reported to SANC since the ombud’s February 2017 report. Van Eeden said the body could not yet say which of the three nurses had been brought before the body.

The report says an internal investigation by the Gauteng Health Department into Masondo’s conduct found no wrongdoing. The national department is currently appealing this in the South Gauteng High Court.

According to the report, Gauteng Health Department spokesperson Lesemang Matuka maintains that Manamela, Jacobus and Masondo have been reported, saying that the department reported Jacobus and Manamela in January. He could not provide a date for when Masondo’s case was referred to the body.

Meanwhile, the report says, national Health Department spokesperson Popo Maja says it remains the Gauteng Health Department’s responsibility to follow through with Makgoba’s and Moseneke’s recommendations. “It’s the employer who is supposed to report them to the councils,” Maja argues. “Legally, we can only urge and try to put pressure on the employer.”

Life Esidimeni Family Committee committee member Christine Nxumalo says the South African Police Service is investigating 45 criminal cases related to the Life Esidimeni scandal. The report says, according to spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane, the National Prosecuting Authority will decide whether to prosecute these by mid-August.

Bhekisisa report

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