South African President Jacob Zuma has instructed Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to ensure that the Health Ombudsman's recommendations are wholly and speedily implemented without any reservations.
Delivering his annual State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Parliament here Thursday, the President said the government was deeply distressed by the death of so many psychiatric patients in Gauteng Province as revealed in the recent report released by Health Ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba after his investigation into circumstances surrounding the deaths of mentally ill patients in Gauteng.
The report revealed that 94 mentally ill patients died after being removed from the Life Healthcare Esidimeni mental health facilities to 27 non-governmental organizations.
Mentally ill patients are some of the most vulnerable members of society, who need protection from the state itself and society as a whole," said the president.
We welcome the recommendation of the Health Ombudsperson that there is an urgent need to review the National Health Act 2003 and the Mental Health Act 2002 with a view that certain powers and functions revert back to the National Minister of Health. Once more, we extend our heartfelt condolences to all families and relatives of the deceased."
He said the government would provide support so that families do not face the burden alone.
The Premier of Gauteng and the Minister of Health have already provided this assurance, he noted.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura has placed the Head of the Department of Health, Dr Tiego Selebano, on precautionary suspension in line with the ombudsman's recommendation. The Director of Mental Health in the department, Dr Makgabo Manamela, has also been served with a notice of intention to suspend her, also in line with the recommendations.
In line with the public service regulations, the Director has 48 hours to respond and give reasons why she should not be suspended.
Upon the release of the report, it was announced that Qedani Mahlangu had tendered her resignation as the Gauteng Member of the Executive Council (MEC) for Health and as a member of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature.
Dr Gwen Ramokgopa was sworn in as a Member of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature and appointed as MEC for Health on Monday. The Premier has appointed Dr Ernest Kenoshi as the Acting Head of Department of Health.
Meanwhile, the task team consisting of senior officials; specialists in the area of mental health: doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, occupational therapists; civil society organizations and family representatives, are continuing with their work to inspect the various NGOs that have patients who were transferred from Life Esidimeni.
The Gauteng Provincial Government on Thursday said the task team has so far visited 20 NGOs and this process will be concluded by Friday.
The team is also working towards identifying institutions that are well-equipped to care for the mental health patients in compliance with the Mental Health Care Act (2002), said the provincial government.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK