New Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa File picture:Picture: Sjenade Williams/Independent Media
Johannesburg – Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa said on Thursday that the department had successfully transferred 592 psychiatric patients to private mental healthcare facilities from unregistered NGOs over the past 79 days.

This comes after the department announced last week that the deadline for moving remaining mentally ill patients from unsuitable NGOs had been extended to the end of the month.

"We have over the past 79 days been working very closely with the Office of the Minister if Health, the Premier of Gauteng and the families in the transfer of mental health patients to appropriate and suitable facilities," Ramokgopa said.

"This work also included the reconstitution of the Mental Health Review Board. The Health Ombud has agreed, based on the progress made and support to the NGOs in the interest of patients, to extend the 45-day deadline for the transfer pf patients."

Ramakgopa was giving an update on the implementation of the recommendations of Health Ombudsman, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba, to move all mental patients from unregistered NGOs to proper healthcare facilities.

She said a minimum of five NGOs had been permanently shut down and only about 210 mental patients were still to be transferred as some were discharged to their homes while others were admitted to psychiatric hospitals.

In February, Makgoba released a report that said nearly 100 patients transferred from Life Esidimeni to 27 unregistered NGOs had died from causes that included neglect and lack of adequate food.

Ramokgopa said most of the patients were accommodated at the Selby Park Clinic near Johannesburg city centre and the rest at Baneng Centre which is owned by Life Healthcare Group in Rooderpoort.

Though there have been about six deaths since the beginning of re-transferring mental patients, none of those deaths were as a result of being moved but from illnesses such as pancreas and heart attacks.

Ramokgopa also said that the disciplinary hearing against the head of department, Tiego Selebano, had been postponed pending the outcome of his appeal against the Health Ombud findings.

Selebano was suspended following findings of gross negligence in the handling of psychiatric patient care.

"The hearing was postponed to allow time for the employee to make representations to the Health Ombudsman within a period of 30 days on the findings of the report," Ramakgopa said.

"The parties have agreed to make decisions on the next formal date for the disciplinary hearing. The parties will come together to determine how far they are with the process and the state of readiness to proceed with the disciplinary hearing without delay."

African News Agency