The DA in Gauteng has raised concerns about the Kairos Centre in Cullinan just outside Pretoria, which is still operating despite allegations that the nursing staff and caregivers are not adequately qualified to manage psychiatric patients or identify early warning signs which would require professional intervention.
Last year the centre, which houses mental health patients, had five deaths within six weeks. It was investigated for allegations of negligence and physical and emotional abuse of residents.
On Tuesday, Gauteng Health MEC Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi, said after the police investigations it was found that the centre was licensed for 101 adult and 24 geriatric mental health users.
“The NGO compliance team conducted a preliminary investigation into the circumstances of the five deaths to identify any contributory factors to their deaths. The compliance team’s investigation focused on clinical risks and compliance matters,” she said.
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Mokgethi said according to the investigations, Kairos did not have adequate security systems and measures in place:
“There are reportedly only one or two staff members on duty during the night from 6pm to 11pm and they only check up on users until everyone is asleep,” the MEC said.
“Users move around freely and can easily leave the premises unnoticed. The staff, who has been listed as security officers, do not have any security qualifications. The one security guard was reported to be a resident of Kairos and though the engagement of users in occupations at the centre is supported, it is a concern that critical thinking and problem-solving are inherent characteristics of performing security duties,” Mokgethi said.
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She said the caregivers performed duties other than taking care of the patients, namely cleaning, doing laundry, and cooking.
“Of serious concern is the carelessness of Kairos with regards to the absconding of the two mental healthcare users. The incidents were not reported to the district, families, or the police. Family contact details were not kept up to date.
“There is no adequate reporting system in place where the families or users can report concerns, complaints, or issues, such as a visitor’s book or a handover book. Kairos files are not within the required norms and standards. There was no evidence in the file of negative behaviour or incidents, such as the regular absconds or suicide indication,” she said.
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She said three deaths – the two users who absconded and subsequently died and the user who committed suicide – were being investigated by the police and there was no update yet.
“The investigation revealed the above risk factors and shortcomings which considerably contributed to these adverse events. The district, as a matter of urgency, addressed the issues related to the compliance of the facility in the remedial action plan, which was instituted at the end of August last year.
“It, however, turned out to be challenging as there were delays, resistance from management’s side and different versions presented by the different staff categories as well as some family members involved,” Mokgethi said.
Bronwynn Engelbrecht, the DA’s provincial social development spokesperson, said it was distressing to learn that the centre was still operating despite the lives of the most vulnerable being in danger:
“And to this end, there was no evidence in the file of negative behaviour or incidents such as the regular absconds or suicide indications. This is sheer carelessness and it points to the fact that this centre does not take its duties and responsibilities fairly,” Engelbrecht said.
Susan van Niekerk, from the Kairos Centre, refused to comment. Instead, she demanded the list of the nursing staff and caregivers who allegedly did not have the qualifications to manage mental illness patients.