DA backs march by relatives of psychiatric patients
Tuesday will see the relatives of the 1900 psychiatric patients who are to be discharged in just over a month marching in Johannesburg to protest against the cancellation of a contract between the Gauteng Health Department and Life Healthcare Esidimeni Hospital.
The Democratic Alliance’s Jack Bloom indicated that he supports the action‚ saying they “have every right to be concerned as the department has made little progress in finding alternative places for the discharged patients”.
Bloom said: “The promised renovations have not been made to the identified facilities‚ which include the old Germiston hospital‚ empty wards at Weskoppies and Sterkfontein‚ the Dan Pienaar creche in Parktown and the old nurses residence at the Transvaal Memorial Institute opposite Constitution Hill. The latter two buildings are derelict. “Existing NGOs do not have the capacity to take large numbers either.”
The health department announced the termination of the contract with Life Healthcare Esidimeni Hospital in October last year‚ saying it “cannot afford” the more than R320-million it paid in the past year for the treatment of “around 2378” patients with psychiatric disorders or severe intellectual disabilities.
Provinical health MEC Qedani Mahlangu said at the time that the termination “is in line with the Mental Health Care Act no 17 of 2002‚ which encourages mental health care practitioners to treat mental health care users in the least restrictive environment”.
Mahlangu said the department wants “to reduce psychiatric patients at facilities by discharging all those who are responding well to treatment and integrate them back to communities and afford them treatment at their respective homes”.
“Patients that require further management will be referred to our hospitals which have psychiatric wards and this will help as patients will be treated closer to home‚” she added.
Bloom said on Tuesday: “My view is that the department should extend the contract with Esidimeni for at least another six months‚ otherwise there will be a human disaster if the patients are forced onto the streets.”
He vowed to raise “this issue at the health committee of the Gauteng Provinical Legislature”.
Bloom had‚ at the time of Mahlangu’s announcement‚ said: “The department cannot simply abandon these patients and needs to make proper arrangements for them.”