Dr George Mukhari Academic Hospital. Picture: Etienne Creux /African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - The Public Servants Association of South Africa said on Thursday it was appalled by the inhumane conditions faced by mental patients at the Dr George Mukhari Academic hospital in Pretoria, urging the health ombudsman and the Human Rights Council to intervene.

The PSA said its shop stewards had tried in vain to advocate for proper care and housing for mental-health patients at the hospital.

"The PSA witnessed 33 patients in a single ward equipped for 14 patients, with four new admissions also being process. The 37 patients have the use of one ablution facility, one bath tub at a time when the entire hospital has been without water for a week," PSA general manager Ivan Fredericks said.

"The same ward where these patients are accommodated have rooms for patients in isolation. These rooms, however, have broken walls that make mockery of the isolation rooms. It also cannot be correct that building contractors are working with their tools in the space occupied by mental-health patients."

The PSA said its members had been forced to fight a fire in the hospital’s laundry room on Monday, with no coordinated plan or an occupational health and safety representative available to provide guidance on evacuation and to ensure that trained persons were dealing with the blaze.

"We cannot allow such conditions to prevail in public institutions where communities trust public servants with the lives of their loved ones,” Fredericks said.

"The PSA calls on the Health Ombudsman and the Human Rights Council to act decisively against these human-rights violations and avert a repeat of the Life-Esidimeni tragedy," he added, alluding to the deaths of 143 people at psychiatric facilities in Gauteng from causes including starvation and neglect.

He called on the department of labour to urgently conduct an inspection of the hospital "to prevent injuries or loss of life".

African News Agency/ANA