The Gauteng Health Department has issued 133 licences for the 2018/19 financial year to mental health NGOs that comply with the requirements of safe patient care and sound financial management, reports The Times. “This was also in line with the regulations of the Mental Health Care Act number 17 of 2002 which dictates that NGOs be audited at least once per annum. In compliance with the Act‚ both announced and unannounced visits have been conducted to NGOs in order to monitor and support the quality of care to the mental care users‚” the department said.
“I am quite happy that the department has undertaken this meticulous exercise with vigour to ensure that the licensing process is flawless. The safety and care of mental health users remains key to us‚” Professor Mkhululi Lukhele‚ acting head of the department is quoted in the report as saying.
The department said that in conformity with new regulations on the licensing of NGOs issued by the National Minister of Health in March‚ it had begun the planning process to workshop NGOs to understand and implement the new regulations.
“The Gauteng Department of Health would also like to take this opportunity to dispel the allegations of delays in the payment of subsidies. There is no truth in this‚ and there are no recorded incidents / complaints about the delay / non-payment of subsidies to the NGOs‚” it added.
But, The South Africa reports that some of the mental health NGOs are technically illegal. The 60 NGOs are responsible for over 3,000 patients and are yet to receive new licences after their old ones expired at the end of March.
According to Democratic Alliance (DA) Shadow Gauteng Health MEC, Jack Bloom, the Gauteng Health Department has still not caught the necessary wakeup call. “This (the license issue) is due to incompetence by the Gauteng Health Department which appears to have not learnt the lessons of the Esidimeni disaster when patients died after being sent to unlicensed NGOs.
“Licensing requirements for 126 mental health NGOs who receive subsidies from the department were tightened up last year, with licences issued that expired on 31 March.”
The 60 NGOs in Johanesburg and east Gauteng also have expired service level agreements (SLAs). These agreements have not been renewed or even renegotiated. Bloom says the department is exposing itself to “severe legal liability” by not issuing licences to the NGOs and renewing their SLAs.
The DA in Gauteng now wants the “inexcusable” delay rectified as soon as possible, along with strict monitoring to ensure patients are properly looked after.