The Gauteng Provincial Government and the Department of Health have commenced with the work to implement the recommendations of the Health Ombudsperson following the release of the Report on the Circumstances Surrounding the Deaths of Mentally Ill Patients in the Gauteng Province.
The government has established a team comprising senior officials; specialists in the area of mental health: doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, occupational therapists; civil society organisations, family representatives; to respond immediately to the recommendations of the report issued by the Health Ombudsman, Professor Malegapuru Magoba on 1 February 2017. The team is co-chaired by the Gauteng Director-General in the Office of the Premier, Ms Phindile Baleni and the National Health Department DG, Precious Matsoso.
The following steps have been taken since the release of the report:
On the recommendation that the Gauteng Health Marathon Project (GMHMP) must be de-established, government has stopped the project. A team of specialists and officials are visiting NGOs that are currently caring for mental health patients who were transferred from Life Esidimeni centres. Specialists have advised that in transferring patients to suitable institutions everything must be done to avoid any negative impacts on the patients. The five high risk NGOs identified by the report of the Health Ombudsman are being prioritised.
The Ombuds recommended that the Premier must consider the suitability of Ms Qedani Mahlangu as Health MEC in the light of the findings. Ms Qedani Mahlangu has resigned as MEC for Health. Dr Gwen Ramokgopa was sworn in as a Member of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature and appointed as MEC for Health on Monday 06 February 2017.
The process to institute disciplinary proceedings against officials in the Gauteng Department of Health was initiated on Friday, 03 February 2017.
The forensic investigation by the South African Police Service is already underway. The Provincial Commissioner has been requested to centralise all cases related to the GMHMP to ensure that they are prioritised.
The process to finalise post-mortems is also underway. Government has contacted three big hospitals in the province to be on high alert for critical matters.
The National Department of Health has commended with the process of reviewing the licences of all the 27 NGOs who received patients during the GMHMP.
In addition, consultations with affected families are underway to facilitate a process of finding on Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanisms, particularly with regard to closure and redress. The Ombuds recommended that Minister of Health, Dr Aron Motswaledi and Premier David Makhura of Gauteng meet with affected families and facilitate a process of Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism.
The Gauteng Department of Health will work together with the National Department to overhaul mental healthcare in the province. The World Health Organisation has been contacted to provide expert assistance in the re-establishment of quality mental health care in Gauteng.
Regular updates on progress made with regard to the implementation of the Health Ombudsman recommendations will be communicated regularly.
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