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Motsoaledi orders health ombudsman to probe psychiatric patients’ deaths

The provincial health department yesterday confirmed the deaths of 36 patients.

FILE: Health minister Aaron Motsoaledi. Picture: Christa Eybers/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has now ordered the office of the health ombudsman to investigate the deaths of 36 psychiatric patients in Gauteng.

The provincial health department confirmed the deaths of the patients yesterday, saying they were among about 2,000 people who were moved to several facilities across the province when the department terminated its contract with the Life Healthcare Esidimeni Centre.

It says while the deaths are being investigated, it would be wrong to assume the patients died as a result of the transfer.

The health ministry's Joe Maila says the decision to ask the health ombudsman to investigate the matter was taken after a marathon consultation meeting with Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu this afternoon.

"The minister has asked for a marathon meeting with the MEC for health and has decided that this matter needs to be investigated properly and thoroughly by the office of the health ombudsman. That office was established to do this kind of work so that we can know what exactly has happened."

RUSHED MOVE

Earlier, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) said many psychiatric patients are suffering the consequences of what it says was a rushed job to move them out of the Life Healthcare Esidimeni Centre.

Sadag's Cassey Chambers says some of these centres were clearly unsuitable and only recently started to accommodate Esidimeni patients.

"This has been a rushed job that we've found so many different problems in. Even many of the NGOs are only starting to get some of the subsidies for the patients. There so many things that should have happened better to avoid these problems from happening."

Additional reporting by Dineo Bendile.

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