Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. Picture: SIYABULELA DUDA
Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. Picture: SIYABULELA DUDA

Criminals were putting extreme pressure on the already strained mental-health system‚ health minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Thursday.

"We have 1,400 criminals languishing in mental-health institutions‚ waiting to be assessed. Many of them are taking up space in mental-health institutions‚" he said. Some of them used mental health as a tactic for their legal battles, he said.

This resulted in mental-health patients being kept in regular medical wards in hospitals until beds became available for them at specialised institutions.

Motsoaledi added that it was tough to address the backlog of patients needing mental-health assessment. SA had 700 registered psychiatrists‚ but only 25% of those were working in the health sector.

Motsoaledi was speaking at the Office of Health Standards Compliance‚ where health ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba was releasing the findings of his report into the Tower Psychiatric Hospital‚ which was accused of violating patients’ rights.

Makgoba found that the psychiatrist who had likened the situation at the Eastern Cape hospital to the Life Esidimeni debacle‚ which resulted in the deaths of 144 patients‚ had lied and exaggerated the extent of problems at the hospital‚ even ballooning the death toll at the facility.