Limpopo health dept and NGO negotiate to prevent 'another Life Esidimeni crisis'

The Limpopo High Court has ordered the provincial health department and the Ndlovu Care Group to go back to the negotiating table and come up with a takeover plan for the NGO's programmes. 

Three patients took Health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba to court to seek an interdict, after she announced it was cutting funding provided for the NGO, which runs ARV and TB treatment programmes in the province. More than 3 000 patients receive treatment at its various centres.

The department previously announced it would no longer provide subsidies to the NGO because it wanted patients to rather use government hospitals to access treatment.

Ramathuba said the contract with the NGO cost them R27m a year, while the department spends R3 800 per patient.

READ: Limpopo health suspends NGOs' services, brings home-based care workers under its administration

Lawyers representing both parties negotiated for more than an hour after judge Gerrit Muller gave parties the green light to talk to each other before he hears the merits of each case.

When they returned to the courtroom, they informed Muller that they had agreed to continue negotiations.

Seun Mogotsi of the Forum for Service Delivery told reporters outside the court that the order was an achievement, as it would compel the department to present a takeover plan.

"We are happy that this time around the department will avail the plan that will assist us to make sure whether they are meeting the standard Ndlovu has set," said Mogotsi

Limpopo Health department spokesperson Neil Shikwambana said the department also welcomed the order. He said it was in line with what they had been advocating and believed it would benefit all parties.

The parties have three months to negotiate terms and a plan of action, before presenting it to the court.

The South African Human Rights Commission also welcomed the order.

"We are happy that parties are going to engage in the negotiations that we have already initiated," said commission provincial manager Victor Mavhidula.

The commission has been tasked with facilitating mediation between the parties and has already set up a meeting for May 7.

"In the process of mediation, both parties stand to benefit, and we are going to sit down and negotiate further," Mavhidula said.

He added that the negotiations would help prevent another Life Esidimeni crisis, where about 140 psychiatric patients died after being moved from Life Esidimeni to several NGOs.

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