Health Ombud’s orders on psychiatric patients ignored

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About 100 psychiatric patients are still trapped in hospices unequipped to care for mentally ill patients after the Gauteng Department of Health had failed to comply with health ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba’s instructions following the deaths of more than 100 patients, according to a Business Day report.

After the deaths in the unlicensed facilities due to a lack of adequate care, Makgoba investigated the circumstances in which more than 1,000 psychiatric patients had been placed into the care of NGOs. The report says the ombud made 18 recommendations, some directed at the department. It includes the transfer of the surviving patients and disciplinary hearings for staff including the head of department. Although the disciplinary procedures have not been concluded, some staff are on precautionary suspensions.

Health ombud spokesperson Ricardo Makhanya said its office left the implementation of the recommendations to the national Department of Health. Health spokesperson Joe Maila said the national department would discuss the report with the Gauteng DOH and take appropriate steps after it had received adequate feedback on the implementation of the ombud’s recommendations.

The report says that, according to lobby group Section27, which has been working with the bereaved relatives of patients who had died, a number of the families had opted to pursue the alternative dispute-resolution process noted in one of the ombud report recommendations. Attorney Sasha Stevenson said many families wanted to resolve the dispute without having to go to court.

“It gives the parties a lot more freedom to determine procedure and the scope of the process, unlike a court application,” Stevenson said, “although people who want to go a different route are entitled to do that.”

Business Day report

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