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Motsoaledi vows to gets answers on Gauteng patient deaths

SA Federation for Mental Health says the fatalities could have been avoided if extra precaution was taken.

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

JOHANNESBURG - Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has promised the families of 36 psychiatric patients who died in Gauteng that an investigation will get to the bottom of the tragedy.

Motsoaledi has ordered the health ombudsman to investigate the matter.

The provincial health department confirmed the deaths of the patients on Tuesday.

They were among at least 2,000 people who were moved to several facilities across the province when the department terminated its contract with the Life Healthcare Esidimeni Centre.

The Health Ministry's Joe Maila says: "The minister is asking for the investigation to take place and it's only then that after we've looked at the report and the recommendations that we'd be able to come up with whatever the positions that we would have. We don't want to just talk out of turn."

Meanwhile, there are now concerns around the safety of psychiatric patients who were moved from the facility.

Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu says while her department is investigating, all the NGOs involved had been approved before the relocation.

The South African Federation for Mental Health says the fatalities could have been avoided if extra precaution was taken.

The federation's Marthé Viljoen says they tried to warn the Gauteng Health Department that the province lacked facilities with adequate resources to care for the patients.

"The reality is that there wasn't readily available facilities to take all of these patients. Even if they did have space for these patients, they didn't have facilities and resources to get that high level of care that these patients required."

Viljoen says the department needs to invest some of its resources towards upscaling these facilities.

GAUTENG HEALTH MEC MUST BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE

The Democratic Alliance in Gauteng says Mahlangu must be held liable for the deaths of the 36 psychiatric patients.

Mahlangu insists it's too early to assume that the patients died as a result of the transfer and she says patience is needed while investigations continue.

But the DA's Jack Bloom says the MEC must resign or be forced out of office.

"I really think Qedani Mahlangu should resign as this matter. I think it's an absolute scandal, the deaths are on her head because she persisted in going ahead and cancelling the contract with Esidimeni Centre when many of us warned that this was being rushed."