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South Africa Scandal: Nearly 100 Psychiatric Patients Die After Hospital Release

Feb 06, 2017 10:30 AM EST
Mental Illness
Makgoba said the numbers of death are likely to increase as the investigations push through.
(Photo : China Photos/Getty Images)

Ninety-four patients with mental illness died in South Africa fiasco, according to a health report recently released. In September, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi asked health ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba to investigate after 36 patients who died following their transfer from the licensed home to various NGOs.

As the investigation progressed, the report revealed that a total of 94 patients under the same condition died. One of the 94 died from mental illness while the others died of medical negligence. Their death comes after the South African government transferred them from Life Healthcare Esidimeni in Gauteng province last year to under-licensed health facilities. The transfer was done allegedly to cut cost.

Most of the patients who were distributed across the 27 unlicensed and poor health facilities were left with not enough food and water. They eventually died of dehydration, diarrhea and pneumonia, health ombudsman report from the investigation revealed. The report also added that the patients were transferred using open trucks and that relatives do not know where exactly they were transferred.

"The decision was unwise and flawed, with inadequate planning and a chaotic and rushed or hurried implementation process," Makgoba said in his report, as quoted by Reuters. Makgoba said the numbers of death are likely to increase as the investigations push through.

According to The Guardian, a day before the scandal broke out, the provincial health minister, Qedani Mahlangu, resigned over the findings, which directly implicated her in the move. Meanwhile, Premier David Makhura released a statement saying he recognizes the report and that he is in deep regret over the incidence.

"It is clear from the Report that there has been both improper and negligent conduct on the part of officials in the Department of Health in the implementation of the policy de-institutionalisation of mental health," he said.

"I deeply regret the tragic loss of so many lives under the care of our provincial government as a result of the action taken by officials in the Gauteng Department of Health to transfer patients from Life Esidimeni to NGOs that were not ready," he added.

Following the outcome of the report, Makgoba forwarded recommendations to Makhura, saying that patients who are at the under-licensed facilities be relocated in a proper hospital. Reports say a government task team lead by the Gauteng Director-General in the Office of the Premier, Phindile Baleni together with the national health department director general Precious Matsoso has started working already.

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