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

THE South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) says a proper investigation should be conducted in order to establish the reasons for the deaths of 36 psychiatric patients in the care of nongovernmental organisations (NGOs).

"It’s very alarming that there have been 36 patients that have died for whatever reasons. I’m hoping for an investigation and that a proper accountability is given [as] we have received reports and spoken to family members who have come forward‚" said Sadag’s operations manager‚ Cassie Chambers.

She was speaking in an interview on Wednesday afternoon on Radio 702.

"The information that we are getting is not just because they are dying from a chronic illness‚ they are dying from things that should have been avoided or prevented. These are concerns that have been brought forward to the department and to the [Gauteng MEC for health and social development Qedani Mahlangu] over the last few months‚" Chambers said.

This comes amid the disclosure that 36 psychiatric patients who were transferred from Life Esidimeni to NGOs earlier this year by the Gauteng health department had died.

The psychiatric patients were moved to 122 NGOs in the province after the department cancelled its long-running contract with Life Healthcare, which looked after about 2‚000 patients.

"These are the exact things that we were trying to avoid and we warned the department about when they first made the announcement last October‚" she added.

Chambers said Mahlangu had given them a list of 25 NGOs around Gauteng where patients would be moved‚ but some family members were not informed about the changes.

"Unfortunately, at the time of moving patients‚ a lot of the family members weren’t notified where their loved ones would be moved to‚ when they would be moved and how they would be moved. Many of the patients were moved without their medical records and medication‚" said Chambers.

She said people had informed Sadag that their family members did not have beds‚ clothes and food, and that staff members were not adequately trained.

In March‚ Sadag filed urgent legal papers in the High Court in Johannesburg‚ hoping to stop the Gauteng health department from relocating 50 mentally ill patients from the Esidimeni hospital group.

At that time, Sadag said it had proof that the department would be moving the patients to an NGO‚ which the group claimed was a violation of an earlier agreement with the department.

Last year‚ both parties agreed to pause the relocation of 2‚000 patients from the hospital.

In its legal papers‚ Sadag argued that an agreement had been reached between all parties that no patient would be moved from Life Esidimeni pending the conclusion of further discussions.

Mahlangu’s spokesperson Steve Mabona could not be reached for comment.

TMG Digital