Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu has resigned following damning findings by the health ombudsman that ninety-four patients in South Africa died after being moved from the Life Esidimeni hospital to various NGOs said Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba at a press conference in Pretoria.
“This is a provisional number because…not all the information we could get from the NGOs was often complete… I suspect the number is higher,” said Makgoba.
Of the 94 deaths, only one died because of a mentally related problem. Some of them died because of dehydration, diarrhoea and other unnatural causes.
According to Makgoba, all 27 NGOs that patients were taken to, are not licensed.
Anybody who died under these circumstances died unlawfully. In some cases, before the inspection was done, NGOs were given licences. Makgoba says there were negligent and reckless decisions made by officials.
“The decision to terminate Life Esidimeni contract was precipitously taken by the MEC, HOD and Director.”
Makgoba’s probe found that it has taken months for some relatives to be informed of the deaths and there were nine cases where patients had two dates of death. In one case, one family was only notified in December that their relative had died in July.
Life Esidimeni had been contracted to the Gauteng government for nearly 40 years, but Mahlangu terminated that contract, citing costs.
“MEC Mahlangu said she was paying R10 000 per patient, that’s R329 a day at Esidimeni; moving them to NGOs means paying R100 a day. Let me ask you South Africans, what can you do with R100?.. You can never justify cost cutting constitutionally if you have been tasked with basic care,” said Makgoba.
Makgoba has requested that patients still at NGOs, that haven’t been shut down, be moved to hospital facilities as they may be at risk. He says several human rights violations took place at the NGOs.
“There have been excess but preventable deaths. Some of these deaths could have been prevented,” he said.
Makgoba recommended that Gauteng Premier David Makhura, consider the suitability of the MEC of Health to continue in her role and head of department, Dr Tiego Selebano and Director Dr Makgabo Manamela be reported to their professional bodies.
“I am distressed and very angry. It goes beyond embarrassment. This shouldn’t have happened,” says health minister Aaron Motsoaledi.
The health ombudsman also recommended the South African Police Services and the Human Rights Commission be involved in the matter. Legal action needs to be taken against the NGOs.
The report has been officially handed over to the Premier.
Mahlangu sent her resignation letter to Premier Makhura last night. She will be replaced by Dr Gwen Ramokgopa, Deputy Health Minister.