Dr Gwen Ramokgopa. Picture: BAFANA MAHLANGU
Dr Gwen Ramokgopa. Picture: BAFANA MAHLANGU

The transfer of 789 mentally ill patients in 22 nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) will begin next week‚ Gauteng health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa said on Wednesday.

She was explaining interventions being undertaken by the department following the shocking deaths of state psychiatric patients.

The MEC‚ who was parachuted into the job after the scandal‚ said a team of experts had assessed the patients and the competencies of the receiving facilities that would take care of their specialised needs.

"All logistical arrangements on the said transfer are in place. The transfer of patients will not be rushed and will be carried out properly‚" said Ramokgopa.

She said the department would ensure that patients were brought closer to their homes and families to make it easier for families to visit the patients.

Ramokgopa said an effective monitoring and evaluation system would be put in place to ensure that patients were not compromised during transfers‚ adding that transparency was crucial.

"We also intend to bring in medical experts in the field of mental healthcare to guide us moving forward. We are going to replenish the mental health team and change management‚" said Ramokgopa.

She vowed to turn the department around and rebuild its reputation, saying she had asked mental health experts to help her achieve this goal.

She said she would prioritise the care of the mental health patients and had established a dedicated help line for families to contact regarding their loved ones.

To the department’s knowledge‚ she said‚ 1‚398 patients were discharged from the Life Esidimeni facilities of which 789 patients are still in 22 NGOs.

"A dedicated team of managers and experts has been established to ensure ... the relocation of patients from the NGOs to appropriate facilities. The transfer of patients will not be rushed and will be carried out properly‚" said Ramokgopa.

The MEC‚ a medical doctor by profession‚ was appointed after former health MEC Qedani Mahlangu resigned following the health ombudsman report on the death of about 100 psychiatric patients under the care of the government.

Ramokgopa said the team of experts that would assist in the move of patients would include mental health specialists.

"If these specialists were involved in the process‚ we could have avoided this tragedy.

"We need to take a step back and reflect on how the system could have failed to safeguard the vulnerable‚" she said.

Ramokgopa said the department was in the process of obtaining data from Life Esedimeni that would show how many patients were discharged under the project and the department was collating a list of unclaimed bodies and those buried as unknown.

TMG Digital

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