Underfunded: Only 4% of the health budget goes towards mental health, says the South African Depression and Anxiety Group. Picture: SOWETAN
Underfunded: Only 4% of the health budget goes towards mental health, says the South African Depression and Anxiety Group. Picture: SOWETAN

Mental health NGOs in Gauteng are struggling with inadequate subsidies‚ new licensing requirements‚ staffing and infrastructure.

This is the thrust of a report adopted on Monday by the Gauteng legislature’s portfolio health committee‚ based on visits by committee researchers to 10 mental-health NGOs in the province.

The report was adopted as arbitration hearings‚ set up to give closure to families who lost relatives when they were removed from the long-term care of Life Esidimeni and sent to NGOs‚ continue to reveal details about the shoddy treatment of mental-health patients in the province.

DA MPL Jack Bloom said in a statement on Tuesday that NGOs visited by the committee complained that provincial health department subsidies — ranging from R2‚278 to R2‚700 a month for permanent patients — did not cover their costs.

"Lack of money makes it difficult for the NGOs to get qualified staff and to maintain infrastructure to an acceptable standard‚" he said. "The subsidies are badly administered‚ sometimes resulting in late payments and even the return of unpaid amounts to the treasury at the end of the financial year. The NGOs also need assistance to comply with the more stringent licensing requirements‚ including expensive re-zoning of properties with local councils."

The NGOs also raised concerns about long waiting times‚ sometimes an entire day‚ faced by their patients needing treatment.

Bloom said it was unfair for these NGOs to get a low subsidy compared to the R15‚000 paid per month per mental health patient at Selby Park Hospital and the re-opened Esidimeni facilities. "I fear there will be more abuses of mental patients if NGOs are not subsidised enough and assisted to meet the licensing standards."

Levy Mosenogi‚ who headed the project to move the Life Esidimeni psychiatric patients into other homes‚ has apologised at the arbitration hearings for the deaths of more than 118 people in the tragedy.

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