Gauteng health MEC Dr Gwen Ramokgopa. Picture: ALAISTER RUSSELL
Gauteng health MEC Dr Gwen Ramokgopa. Picture: ALAISTER RUSSELL

Gauteng health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa says the search will continue for 21 mentally ill patients who went missing after being relocated from Life Esidimeni to unregistered NGOs.

Ramokgopa said in a statement on Tuesday that “no stone would be left unturned in accounting for the unaccounted [sic] mental health patients”.

She called on the public to assist the police in tracing the patients.

“Despite working with various state departments and law enforcement agencies‚ the department is determined to make headway in accounting for the remaining 21 discharged patients from Life Esidimeni between 2015 [and] 2016‚” said Ramokgopa.

More than 140 patients died following the move to ill-equipped and unlicensed NGOs in the province.

Ramakgopa said the department had managed to transfer 750 patients from the unlicensed NGOs. “However, the difficulties in finding the 21 patients are due to poor record-keeping during the project, which left the department with very little, and unverified, information‚” she said.

“As a department, we are concerned ... and we therefore call on citizens to co-operate with police to assist with [locating] these patients. We will continue to work with all stakeholders to make sure that all are accounted for.” 

She said that initially about 100 patients were unaccounted but after investigations, incorporating home affairs‚ the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa)‚ the department of social development and the police‚ many of them were found. Some were already back in the care of their families.

Of the missing 21‚ Ramakgopa said: “We will continue to spare no effort … to ensure we close this chapter on this tragic episode.”