Gauteng infrastructure development MEC Qedani Mahlangu. Picture: SOWETAN
Qedani Mahlangu. Picture: SOWETAN

GAUTENG health MEC Qedani Mahlangu refuses to comment on causes of deaths of 36 psychiatric patient before a departmental investigation is completed.

They died after Gauteng’s health department transferred them to the care of NGOs after terminating its contract with healthcare provider Life Esidimeni, which was treating them as psychiatric patients.

"I am not going to discuss in public the outcome of these things because we are beginning to encroach into a private doctor-patient relationship and that can’t be correct‚" Mahlangu told radio station 702’s John Robbie on Wednesday morning.

Mahlangu sent condolences to bereaved families, but would provide no further information until investigations were completed.

It is not clear if the causes of death will then be made public.

"We will continue with the investigation‚ with the forensic pathologist as well as the team from justice‚ just to look at what the causes of death of these particular individuals [are].

"Let’s not get into the merits of the causes of death. Let’s allow the professionals to do that work. Then we can have a conversation‚ not about what the causes of death are‚ but about whatever the issues [are] that will come out."

Mahlangu said that the deaths may not necessarily be related to the transfer of patients, and that all was not well at Life Esidimeni when the patients left. The patients were transferred without their clinical files.

"Simply‚ what I think I need to indicate to the public is that when the patients were [taken] over from Life Esidimeni not everything was hunky-dory, and we’ve finally had a meeting with them last week."

Mahlangu said Life Esidimeni was expected to share the clinical files of patients with the department soon‚ which would assist in the investigation.

She commented on some patients and family members, saying: "Some of them are extremely difficult.

"They have been difficult from day one when we had a meeting with them‚ [with] myself present [and] the HOD present. But we want to continue to want to work with them in accordance with keeping with our responsibility of providing quality health."

She also said that all the NGOs to which patients were moved were vetted and she visited some of them.

"The important thing we said‚ and I continue to say that‚ [is that] we are not going to make these patients worse off."

TMG Digital