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

Virginia Machpelah, 50, was one of the 36 psychiatric patients who died after being transferred from Life Healthcare Esidimeni. (Supplied)
Virginia Machpelah, 50, was one of the 36 psychiatric patients who died after being transferred from Life Healthcare Esidimeni. (Supplied)

Johannesburg - Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba is set to release a report into the deaths of mentally ill patients, he said on Friday.

The finalised report will be provided to the acting CEO of the Office of Health Standards Compliance (OHSC), Bafana Msibi, on Monday.

Makgoba said he would convene a meeting with some of the complainants and respondents to inform them about the findings and recommendations on February 1.

According to the ombudsman, Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu has provided feedback which he has studied, analysed and researched before finalising the report.

The MEC's feedback consisted of two documents: The first consisted of 10 pages received on January 13 and the second, 12 pages received on January 24, Makgoba said.  

On Sunday, a family member of one of the patients criticised the leaking of the report after a news report on it was published on the same day.

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

READ: Report into deaths of psychiatric patients delayed

Families 'fought' for report

An article in the Sunday Independent claimed that the ombudsman's report found that 80 patients may have died instead of 36 as it was previously reported by MEC Mahlangu.

It quoted information from "highly placed insiders" close to ombudsman Makgoba's investigations into the matter.

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.

Last 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.

READ: Families demand answers for deaths of 37 psych patients

Call for Mahlangu to step down

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

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

On Monday, January 16, Makgoba announced that the report would be delayed.

This was after Mahlangu requested 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.

The Democratic Alliance's Jack Bloom repeated the party's call for Mahlangu to step down, saying if the news report was accurate, 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 Bloom.

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