Leaking Health Ombuds draft report was selfish, says family member

2017-01-22 17:35
Health Ombud Malegapuru Makgoba (Supplied)

Health Ombud Malegapuru Makgoba (Supplied)

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Johannesburg - A family member of one of the Life Esidimeni psychiatric patients who died last year has criticised the leaking of the health ombudsman’s draft report into the deaths of patients.

"How selfish of them," Christine Nxumalo told News24.

She was responding to a report in an article in the Sunday Independent which claimed that more than 80 patients may have died instead of 36 as it was previously reported by Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu.

The report quoted information from "highly placed insiders" close to health ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba's investigations into the matter.

Christine Nxumalo's sister Virginia Machpelah, was one of the 36 patients who died after being transferred to an NGO in Pretoria during May and June.

Speaking to News24 in September, Nxumalo said she received a call on August 25, from a woman working for the NGO who told her she had been caring for her sister for six weeks. She was told her sister had died a week earlier and that they had struggled to reach her family.

On Sunday, Nxumalo said families had been fighting to get access to the report.

"How many of us have been waiting for this report? We’ve been going through the normal processes. If that person has an issue with the MEC, they must [still] follow suit and go through the normal processes.

“To use a process that is already in place, and then cut corners because they want to get the public's reaction, it is very selfish of that person and worse than what Qedani has been doing.

"How long have we been chasing, fighting, asking for the report ourselves? Wouldn't it have been better for us to see a copy of the report?" she said.

‘So many people have suffered’

According the report in the Sunday Independent, the department was advised against transferring patients from Life Esidimeni in Randfontein, on the West Rand.

It believed that one of Makgoba's findings was that Mahlangu and two senior department officials take responsibility for the scandal.

On Monday, Makgoba announced that the report would be delayed. This was after Mahlangu wanted more time to peruse the document.

Makgoba said he had given a draft interim report to Mahlangu on January 6 and she had promised to respond by Friday, January 13. But later that evening, she asked for an extension and Makgoba granted her one until Tuesday.

Nxumalo said Mahlangu's actions were also selfish.

"I was angry about the postponement. I thought it was very selfish. So many people have suffered and none of them got support from them [the department]... and all they needed to do was get this report for closure, and [for it] to be postponed was the last thing we needed," she said.

‘Huge implications’

Last September, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said he had asked Makgoba to investigate the deaths.

The move came after the department cancelled its long-running contract with Life Healthcare group, which owns Life Esidimeni, in a bid to cut costs. It had looked after about 2 000 patients.

Speaking to News24 on Sunday, Makgoba declined to comment on the contents of the report.

"I have stated that I will follow procedures properly. Any other information not from me and not from my office, I will not be engaging."

He said although he understood the levels of anger and anxiety some affected parties may be feeling, patience was key, because all due processes had to be followed including giving the MEC sufficient time to respond to his findings.

"We need to be more patient… I will release the correct data. I am waiting for a response [and] will study it, then make a determination, then release the report.

"So when the report is released it [will be] a proper report. I would like all the families to be put at ease."

He said he did not have any issues discussing the work that he was doing, but wanted to make sure that all procedures had been followed.

"Leaks are bad, they cause confusion, you never know if they are carrying a true story or not. You never know whether it's a half-truth. Leaks by their nature means somebody gossiped to the newspapers, which is bad in itself," he said.

The Democratic Alliance’s MPL Jack Bloom repeated the party's call for Mahlangu to step down, saying if the report was true, there were "huge implications" for her and others who were involved.

"The MEC is delaying the inevitable. Her day of reckoning is coming. I hope she meets the deadline on Tuesday. Everyone is waiting for this report and delays make things worse," said Bloem.

Spokesperson for Mahlangu, Steve Mabona told News24:" It is paramount to indicate that, we initiated this investigation, we await the report by the Ombudsman accordingly.''

Read more on:    jack bloom  |  qedani mahlangu  |  malegapuru makgoba  |  johannesburg  |  health

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