The Life Healthcare Esidimeni centre that closed at the end of May last year.Picture: Bhekikhaya Mabaso

Johannesburg – The deadline for moving remaining mentally ill patients from unsuitable NGOs has been extended to the end of the month.

"After representations were made by the department, the Health Ombudsman extended the original 45-day deadline to the end of this month for the transfer of all former Esidimeni patients from unsuitable NGOs. At this stage, there are still about 300 to 400 patients still at the NGOs," said Jack Bloom on Monday.

Bloom, who is a Democratic Alliance MPL in Gauteng, said the delay was because of a lack of suitable alternative facilities and also because of the need to do the transfers with proper care and in consultation with the families – unlike what happened previously which led to more than 100 deaths.

Most of the patients will be accommodated at the Selby Park Clinic and at reopened Life Esidimeni facilities which will need to hire staff and make other arrangements for them.

"I hope that all the patients are indeed safely transferred by the end of the month, which is a deadline that should not be further extended," said Bloom.

In February health ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba released a report that said nearly 100 of the transferred patients had died from causes that included neglect and lack of adequate food.

The ombudsman found that all 27 NGOs that were looking after the mentally ill patients did not have the patients' health records or requisite operating licence documents.

More than 100 patients have since died at these centres.

Malegapuru recommended disciplinary action be taken against the senior health officials who authorised the transfer.