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GP govt won't shut down NGOs right now, prioritises patients' safety

Makhura’s office says it’s not concentrating on shutting down these NGOs right now but on taking patients away from dangerous conditions.

FILE: Families and supporters of psychiatric patients who died after being transferred from Life Healthcare Esidimeni gather at the Gauteng Health MEC’s offices on 27 October 2016. Picture: Masego Rahlaga/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG – The Gauteng provincial government has moved to clarify that NGOs which have been housing Life Esidimeni patients and later found to be operating illegally have always existed as care facilities but not equipped to cater for mentally ill patients.

The provincial government says on the basis of this, they will not be shutting down these facilities.

Earlier this week, Health Ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba released his investigation into the circumstances around the deaths of 94 psychiatric patients.

He found that all 27 of the NGOs were not licensed or equipped to house the patients.

Gauteng Premier David Makhura’s office says it’s not concentrating on shutting down these NGOs right now but on taking mentally ill patients away from dangerous conditions.

Spokesperson Thabo Masebe says they are prioritising on terminating the contracts.

“What we’re doing, which is very clear from the report of the ombudsman, is to move the people who are there.”

Masebe says these NGOs were established before the Life Esidimeni deal was established.

“Remember NGOs are there, they’ve been functioning. They were not set up for the purpose of securing for the mentally ill patients.”

However, this does not rule out further action against the owners of the institutions as political parties and the families of the 94 who died have laid criminal charges against them.

Professor Makgoba has recommended that the mentally ill patients be removed from these NGOs and transferred to more suitable institutions.

His spokesperson Ricardo Makhanya said their job was to make recommendations and what happens to the owners of these NGOs is now in the hands of the Gauteng provincial government.

“Our work was to make recommendations, as for the NGOs, the Gauteng Department of Health must deal with those ones.”

Masebe says their priority right now is to take patients out of the unlawful NGOs.

“By moving the people, the Gauteng provincial government will terminate its contract, the purpose of which was for those NGOs to care for the patients.”

Former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu resigned just hours before Makgoba's findings were made public.

Next week, former health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa is expected to assume the position again.

Read the Health Ombudsman report below

The report into the ‘circumstances surrounding the deaths of mentally ill patients: Gauteng province’ by Primedia Broadcasting on Scribd