Family members gather outside the Gauteng health department in Johannesburg at a vigil on October 27 2016 for 37 patients who died after the department moved them from the Life Healthcare Esidimeni psychiatric hospital to community-based NGO care centres. Picture: SOWETAN
Family members gather outside the Gauteng health department in Johannesburg at a vigil on October 27 2016 for 37 patients who died after the department moved them from the Life Healthcare Esidimeni psychiatric hospital to community-based NGO care centres. Picture: SOWETAN

Seven hundred psychiatric patients in the Eastern Cape are at risk‚ with the Life Esidimeni facility in Kirkwood facing closure after its contract was extended only to December.

The decision not to renew the contract flies in the face of several warnings that the nongovernmental sector in the province does not have the capacity or training to care for most of the patients.

This follows the distressing Life Esidimeni saga in 2017, when 144 psychiatric patients died after the Gauteng health department terminated its contract with the Life Esidimeni group in the province and moved the patients to ill-equipped nongovernmental organisations (NGOs).

The Eastern Cape health department’s contract with Life Esidimeni Kirkwood expires at the end of September and officials have agreed to extend it for three months while they "test the market", provincial health spokesperson Lwandile Sicwetsha said.

Life Esidimeni says it has not been told yet that the contract will not be renewed.

The decision comes days after health ombud Prof Malegapuru Makgoba asked health minister Aaron Motsoaledi to appoint an administrator to oversee mental health in the Eastern Cape.

He said the department had clearly demonstrated time and again that it was "incapable of recovering or correcting by itself and without the assistance of an external tough task master or administrator".

The Herald

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