National dept kept in the dark in Esidimeni matter – Motsoaledi

2017-02-15 12:56
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. (Karabo Ngoepe, News24)

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. (Karabo Ngoepe, News24)

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Cape Town - Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says the national department was deliberately kept out of the loop by "somebody" in the Gauteng health department about the deaths of 94 mentally ill patients.

Motsoaledi and Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba were briefing Parliament on Wednesday on Makgoba's report into the deaths of the now more than 100 patients who were transferred from Life Esidimeni to 27 NGOs in 2016.

Motsoaledi said the province did not co-operate with the national health department and the ombudman's requests for information until the first 36 deaths were announced publicly.

"It may look like somebody was deliberately making sure that nobody in the national department knew what was being planned," he told the portfolio committee on health.

He said his National Mental Health Framework and Strategic Plan, which all parties agreed was a "credible plan" to deinstitutionalise mental healthcare, was not followed at all when patients were transferred in April and June 2016.

"Somebody within the Gauteng department of health deliberately torpedoed that, which means there was a big betrayal to all the plans and agreements we had made."

Minister 'blindsided'

Makgoba earlier told the committee of the "shambolic and chaotic" nature of the transfers to 27 unlicensed NGOs.

- Read more: Life Esidimeni deaths now above 100 - health ombud

He said that the transfers were solely handled by the provincial health department and was one of the main causes of the problems.

He supported Motsoaledi, saying the law currently leaves the minister out of the handling of certain mental healthcare provisions in the provinces.

"It's a very important thing that the national minister doesn't get blindsided, but when things happen we ask: 'Where is the minister?'" Makgoba said.

He said certain powers in the Mental Health Care Act need to be handed back to the national department, as the situation is now a national problem.

The minister should appoint the provincial health MECs, not the premiers, he said. The laws around the awarding of NGO licences also need to be reviewed.

He also warned against politicians trying to politicise the issue, and attempts by lawyers to gain financially through lawsuits on behalf of affected families.

He said the key now is to ensure those patients still at the unlicensed NGOs are protected going forward.

Remedial actions

Meanwhile, Motsoaledi said certain individuals within the Gauteng health department have registered their intention to take Makgoba's February 1 report on review.

They have yet to file an official appeal, but have requested information and data from the ombudsman.

He did not name the individuals, but will do so when the official appeal is filed.

They have 30 days within which to appeal the findings from the date of the report's release.

Motsoaledi said the Gauteng health department has 45 days to implement Makgoba's 17 recommendations.

He also said it is up to the National Prosecuting Authority, and not himself or Makgoba, to launch criminal charges.

Read more on:    aaron motsoaledi  |  johanneburg  |  healthcare

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