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

THE Health Ombudsman has put together a team of four independent psychiatric experts and a public health expert to assist with the investigation into the death of 36 psychiatric patients who were moved to NGOs after the cancellation of the contract with Life Esidimeni.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi last week asked the ombudsman to step in.

The patients 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.

The national health department said the decision to approach the Ombudsman was taken after a meeting with Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu.

The Health Ombudsman Prof Malegapuru Makgoba on Wednesday said the office of health standards compliance had also put together a team of inspectors to conduct inspections at the health NGOs where the patients had died.

"The purpose of the inspections is to assess the veracity of the allegations as well as to determine the capability and competence of the alleged health establishments with regards to the management and care for mental health care patients," he said.

Makgoba said he had received assurance from Mahlangu that all necessary and requested documents were being prepared and would be forwarded to his office on or before September 24 in hardcopy and electronically.

The scope of the investigation would focus on quality management and care of the patients concerned based on clinical records and any other information relevant to the matter, Makgoba said.

"I view these deaths in serious light and would like to bring conclusion speedily to lessen the pain and burden affected families," he said.

The office of the Health Ombudsman said it was also finalising the investigation of the death of five patients in Bongani Hospital in the Free State and the alleged incidents of poor health care at the Polokwane Hospital in Limpopo.