GP Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu resigns

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Picture: BONGIWE MCHUNU

Gauteng MEC for Health Qedani Mahlangu has resigned, Gauteng Premier David Makhura announced on Wednesday.

This comes after a scathing Health Ombudsman report on the deaths of mentally ill patients.

Health Ombudsman Prof MW Makgoba made startling revelations in a report that investigated the deaths of, previously reported to be 37, Life Esidimeni mentally ill patients.

Makgoba stated that the total number of people that actually died from 23 March to 19 December is 94 with majority of the deaths occurring in NGOs.

“When it was decided that patients were going to be moved from Life Esidimeni there were three options that could be taken, patients could be either sent back to their homes, or they could be sent to hospitals or they could be sent to NGOs,” Makgoba said.

He said some patients were sent home but 360 patients, who were very sick, went to hospitals and only 4 died, compared to 1039 patients who were sent to 27 NGOs where 77 deaths occurred.

NGO’s featured prominently in the report with 27 organisations having invalid licences. NGO Precious Angels had to be closed down after 18 patients lost their lives at the facility.

It was found that these NGO’s had no qualified staff and skills to care for the special requirements of patients, there was lack of appropriate infrastructure, safety and security as well as food and water with patients dying of dehydration.

The buck stopped at MEC for health in the province Qedani Mahlangu, HOD Dr Selebano as well as the Director in the department who are considered the key role players in what Makgoba said witnesses described as a program of action which was chaotic, in shambles and rushed.

Mokgoba said they acted in a negligent and recklessness manner in their decision making.

“I’ve also made a recommendation that I’ve heard being discussed, that perhaps the Premier of the Gauteng Province must in light of this serious matter consider the sustainability of the MEC of Health MEC Mahlangu to continue in her role,” he said.

As MEC I have also recommended that disciplinary action be taken against the HOD and the Director. This must also be reported to their respective health professional councils,” he added.

He also said the Chief Director and the Chairperson of the Mental Health Review board must also undergo disciplinary action because they knew that the project was wrong.

“They really did not exercise their fiduciary responsibility that compromised governance in some of the NGOs,” Makgoba said.

Meanwhile Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said they are happy that the report is out, exposing the ‘incompetence and failures’ of the Gauteng Health department.

“We would actually like to see a situation where those who have been identified to do the honourable thing by stepping aside, the relevant authorities need to actually relieve them of their duties and responsibilities,” Pamla said.

He said the government should be wary of giving its responsibility to private institutions.

“What we need to do is to help and work with government to strengthen its own capacity to deliver on a mandate which is to take care of the most vulnerable of society,” he said.

Pamla said these NGO’s exploited loopholes created by senior officials in the department adding that there needs to be an investigation into who failed to vet and check whether these institutions were properly licensed.

“And why is it that these NGO’s were allowed to be in charge of people’s livelihoods with no vetting process and no training whatsoever,” Pamla said. He said deeper systemic issues have to be uncovered.

Earlier, DA Gauteng health spokesperson Jack Bloom said criminal charges need to be laid against officials and unsuitable NGO’s where patients died.

“Recommendations of the Health Ombudsman must be taken seriously, I commend him for the excellent job he has done and also the relatives of the patients must receive some form of compensation,” Bloom said.

He said the Gauteng department of Health is thoroughly rotten and said there were accusations of money being made from these patients.

“I really think there is new leadership needed in the Gauteng Health department. I think the Premier of this province has to act very, swiftly. I think that his credibility has taken a hit , in fact he should have fired the MEC for Health a long time ago” he said prior to Mahlangu’s resignation.

 

Lehlohonolo Mashigo

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