Zuma calls for health sector investigation following Life Esidimeni tragedy

President Jacob Zuma.

President Jacob Zuma has on Friday indicated that a nation-wide probe into the nation’s mental health sector and NGO’s, should take place following the Life Esidimeni tragedy.

The President was speaking at The New Age Business Briefing on Friday, post State of The Nation Address in Cape Town.

Zuma said the tragedy where 94 mentally ill patients died, “shocked ” the government.

“We have taken a view along with the Minister of Health and in government that we want to go through nationally to check what is happening because the report was revealing,” said Zuma.

“We must do an investigation nationally in addition to implementing what the report of the ombudsman says but we would want to check nationally on the health sector,” continued Zuma.

During his State of the Nation Address, Zuma conveyed his condolences to the families of the deceased patients.

“…we extend our heartfelt condolences to all families and relatives of the deceased. Government will provide support so that families do not face this burden alone. The Premier of Gauteng and the Minister of Health have already provided this assurance,” said Zuma

Zuma added that “government welcomed the recommendation of the Health Ombudsperson that there is an urgent need to review the National Health Act 2003 and the Mental Health Act 2002 with a view that certain powers and functions revert back to the National Minister of Health.”

In his report, health Ombudsman Prof Malegapuru Makgoba highlighted negligence into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the mentally ill patients.

The report found that former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and her former senior officials’ decision to relocate more than 1 000 psychiatric patients from Life Healthcare Esidimeni was ‘reckless and negligent’.

After the release of the report, Mahlangu resigned. The African National Congress Youth League(ANCYL), Economic Freedom Fighters and Democratic Alliance have since laid charges against Mahlangu.

Head of the Gauteng department of health Dr Barney Selebano was also suspended on Tuesday.

-TNA Reporter