Government ‘distressed’ by deaths of 94 psychiatric patients – Zuma

09 February 2017 - 23:43
By Bekezela Phakathi

Government is “distressed” by the deaths of 94 mentally ill patients in Gauteng‚ President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.

Zuma said that the government would support the families and relatives of the deceased.

“We extend our heartfelt condolences to all families and relatives of the deceased‚” the President said. Earlier in February‚ the Health Ombudsman released a report on the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 94 mentally ill patients in Gauteng.

The patients had died after being moved from Esidimeni’s facilities in Gauteng to NGOs that had been operating without proper licences. They were transferred after former MEC Qedani Mahlangu‚ who resigned on the eve of the report’s release‚ terminated the contract with Life Esidimeni Health Care Centre in March last year‚ as part of a cost cutting and saving measure.

  • READ MORE: Gauteng health department to inspect facilities offered to house psychiatric patientsThe Gauteng department of health will inspect the empty premises of the Waverly Life Esidimeni clinic in Germiston on Thursday.

The patients died of cold and hunger‚ dehydration and general lack of care.

The Human Rights Institute of South Africa compared the Life Esidimeni scandal to the Marikana massacre‚ saying basic human rights were violated.

Zuma said that he has instructed Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to ensure that the Health Ombudsman’s recommendations are “wholly implemented”.

“We welcome recommendations that there is urgent need to review the national health act and the mental health act with a view that certain powers revert back to the national minister of health‚” said Zuma.

Earlier‚ DA chief whip John Steenhuisen requested that Parliament observe a minute of silence in honour of the 94 mentally ill patients‚ “the greatest tragedy since Marikana”. However‚ National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete declined the request and suggested that the moment of silence be observed next week.

“Allow us to proceed with this joint sitting according to plan...we will entertain the plan when we debate the state of the nation address next week‚” said Mbete.

- TMG Digital/BusinessLIVE