Psychiatric patient transfer deadline extended to end of April

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Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and the Gauteng government have been given until the end of this month to complete the transfer of psychiatric patients to safe healthcare centres, following the controversy that exposed the death of scores of patients moved from the Life Esidimeni centre.

The Sunday Independent reports that according to spokesperson for the Gauteng provincial government, Thabo Masebe, Premier David Makhura postponed the 45-day deadline to relocate patients following a consultation with the minister and the Health Ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba.

“The multidisciplinary team of experts involved in the process of moving patients have advised that the moving of patients within 45 days will have an adverse effect. The projected date for the removal of all patients is (now) the end of April.”

Masebe is quoted in the report as saying that the provincial executive council had received a progress report on the implementation of the recommendations of the ombud concerning the welfare of psychiatric patients. He also said disciplinary action was under way against all officials who were involved in the illegal transfer of patients.

“Work has begun to strengthen the mental health care review board and an interim chairperson has been appointed Some of the facilities from where patients have been moved are now closed and the licensing requirements for NGOs are being reviewed and regularised,” Masebe said.

DA Gauteng spokesperson on health, Jack Bloom, said the provincial health department should disclose the full reasons for the delay and a timetable for the transfers must be concluded as soon as possible. He said while he acknowledged “the difficulty” in finding alternative suitable facilities and to move (patients) with due care and “not repeating the failures in the previous transfers” of patients, the provincial government needed to inform all key role players on the progress.

The report says the controversy involving psychiatric patients began in 2015 when Gauteng health officials transferred more than 1,900 from the Life Esidimeni healthcare centre to NGOs. The problem escalated when patients died in the care of these NGOs.

In his report in February, Makgoba found all 27 NGOs involved did not have legal documents to care for the patients. More than 100 patients died at these centres. The ombud recommended disciplinary action be taken against the senior health officials who authorised the transfer. Makgoba issued a deadline of 45 days to transfer the patients from the NGOs.

Sunday Independent

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