Axe MEC if leaked report on psychiatric patients death is confirmed - DA

Qedani Mahlangu  (Jabu Kumalo, Netwerk24)
Qedani Mahlangu (Jabu Kumalo, Netwerk24)

Johannesburg - The DA on Tuesday urged Gauteng Premier David Makhura to axe Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu should leaked details of the Health Ombudsman’s findings into the deaths of dozens of psychiatric patients be confirmed.

The patients died after being transferred from the Life Esidimeni facility in Johannesburg to numerous non-governmental organisations (NGOs) after the department cancelled its contract as part of cost-cutting measures.

Life Esidimeni looked after about 2 000 patients and got its funding from the department.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi appointed health ombudsman, Malegapuru Makgoba, in September to investigate.

READ: Leaking Health Ombuds draft report was selfish, says family member

The Sowetan reported on Tuesday that according to a draft report it had seen, 71 patients had died, instead of the 36 initially reported.

According to the draft report's findings, the NGOs at which most of the fatalities occurred were poorly resourced and staff did not have the necessary experience.

There appeared to be evidence of human rights violations and actions which disregarded the Constitution, National Health Act, and the Mental Health Care Act, the report reads. The decision to move the patients was not properly planned.

READ: Health ombud to release report into the death of mentally ill patients

In the draft report, according to The Sowetan, questions are raised about Mahlangu’s suitability to stay in her job.

DA Gauteng shadow MEC for health, Jack Bloom, said Mahlangu should have resigned or been fired long ago for what he called her “inexcusable neglect”.

“It was abundantly clear from the start that the Health MEC had bungled the transfer of patients which led to avoidable deaths.”

He hoped action would be taken against implicated parties.

Makgoba on Tuesday said he would not comment on the report until its release on Wednesday.

Makgoba handed a draft interim report to Mahlangu on January 6. She undertook to provide him with feedback by Friday, January 13, he said. That evening, he received a letter from her, asking for an extension. Makgoba granted her one until Tuesday, January 24.

Mahlangu’s spokesperson Steve Mabona declined to comment. The power to hire and fire a premier rested with the provincial premier, he said.

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