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Psychiatric facility Kairos Centre faces trying times after five deaths

The Kairos Centre, a psychiatrist facility outside Cullinan, is facing closure. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

The Kairos Centre, a psychiatrist facility outside Cullinan, is facing closure. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 21, 2022


Pretoria - A probe undertaken by the Gauteng Department of Health into Kairos Centre, a psychiatric facility outside Cullinan, following allegations of neglect of patients has suggested that the centre’s operating licence should be revoked.

This was revealed by Health MEC, Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi, in response to parliamentary questions posed by the DA’s Gauteng MPL Bronwynn Engelbrecht regarding an investigation into the neglect of patients following the deaths of five of them in a period of six weeks.

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The Pretoria News reported last year that mentally-ill patient Shane Jordaan mysteriously disappeared from the centre on June 4, 2021.

His body was discovered later near the old Cullinan Road, also known as the R513.

Another patient, Petrus Smit, fled from the centre and allegedly ran into a moving vehicle. It is alleged that Smit was chased away from the facility and he had left a suicide note behind.

Yesterday, Engelbrecht indicated that the centre was still operating despite the fact that “an investigation has found that there are no adequate systems in place to ensure the safety of the mentally ill patients in their care”.

“This is a clear indication that the lives of the most vulnerable are in danger as there is no constant monitoring to ensure their safety and that they do not endanger themselves and others around them,” Engelbrecht said.

Mokgethi said the investigation showed that Kairos did not have adequate security systems and measures in place.

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“Access control is done during the daytime, but otherwise little evidence of security protocols, such as a daily roll calls of users, were present. There are reportedly only one to two staff members on duty during the night from 6pm to 11pm and they only check up on users till everyone is asleep.”

She said facility users moved around freely and can easily leave the premises unnoticed.

It was also found that the staff listed as security officers lacked any security qualifications.

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“No caregivers, except one who was allocated to work night duty, which increases the risk for mental health care users to abscond as no staff is available to attend to the crisis which might occur,” Mokgethi said.

According to her, there was no adequate reporting system in place where families or users can report concerns, complaints or issues, such as a visitor’s book or a handover book.

“Kairos files are not within the required norms and standards. There was no evidence in the file of negative behaviour or incidents, such as the regular abscondings or suicide indication,” she said.

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Regarding the deaths, she said: “Three of the deaths are being investigated by police – the two users who absconded and subsequently died and the user who committed suicide. There is no update from the police yet.

“The fact that we reported that the staff are not properly managed to satisfaction and that there are instances of vulgar words and confrontations with senior management is a concern, thus the suggestion that the licence be revoked.”

Engelbrecht last year likened the Kairos deaths to “the Life Esidimeni tragedy, where 144 patients died due to the provincial Department of Health’s negligence”.

Yesterday, she said the revelation about the centre pointed to “sheer carelessness” and that the centre “does not take its duties and responsibilities seriously”.

“The investigation into the Kairos Centre came as a result of the DA raising the alarm about the five patients who died at the centre. Subsequently, this centre was investigated for negligence,” she said.

She said her party would demand that the recommendations by the department be implemented, “failing which this centre must be closed immediately and its licence be revoked”.

Pretoria News