Editor's Comment: Whose to blame for the 94 patient deaths? We are all to blame

02 February 2017 - 08:17 By The Times

There are 94 reasons why the book is not closed on the scandal of Gauteng's mental health patient policy.

Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu. File photo.
Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu. File photo.
Image: Tsheko Kabasia

Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu's head is not a heavy enough price to balance the 94 lives lost, the callous disregard with which the health system treated its patients and the lies that have infected this pestilent episode.

Health ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba's excellent and deeply disturbing report has made it clear where the balance needs to be exacted.

Gauteng health's head of department, Dr Tiego Ephraim Selebano, must pay the price. So must Dr Makgabo Manamela, provincial director of mental health services. The nine other officials named by Makgoba must pay, too.

But that is not enough.

Consider this. Only one of the 94 who died succumbed to a mental health-related ailment. The rest - suffering from tuberculosis, hypertension and jaundice, among other conditions - died of cold, hunger and thirst.

They died because no one cared enough to care for them.

The organisations that were entrusted with this responsibility must also pay.

But that is not enough.

The Reverend Joseph Maboe, the father of Billy, 51, one of those who died filthy and starving, points the finger at the government. To him it is nothing short of evil. Yes, the government must pay a price.

But that is not enough.

As the families of these 94 victims remind us, these are not people to be forgotten. They are sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers. They are like us, but they are ill.

They are not detritus to be discarded as we so often do.

In the final reckoning of this horror, the culpability is universal.

We must all pay a price.