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Gauteng patient deaths: Sadag calls for better equipped care centres

Sadag says local care centres must be better equipped to handle the deinstitutionalising of psychiatric care.

A nurse takes a patient's blood pressure in hospital. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) says while it supports deinstitutionalising psychiatric care in favour of community based care, local centres must first have the adequate tools in place before this can be done.

Sadag expressed its view following news that 36 psychiatric patients died within months of being moved from the Life Healthcare Esidimeni Centre to local NGOs and other facilities.

The Health Ministry has now ordered an investigation into deaths.

Sadag's Cassey Chambers says: "The state will have to upscale the communities. You've to make sure that there's medication at the clinics. You've to make sure that the clinic staff are trained.

"You've to make sure that the NGO has the treatment programme that they're supported and being trained and there's treatment available to them. But unfortunately this hasn't happened."

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

Gauteng 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."

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