NEWS
05/03/2017 11:23 GMT | Updated 05/03/2017 11:46 GMT

Gauteng Sets Up Mental Health Review Boards To Watch Over Patients After Esidimeni Disaster

The boards follow the death of at least 100 mental health patients in Gauteng after a disastrous attempt to save costs on care.

Ihsaan Haffejee/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Demonstrators gathered outside Gauteng Premier David Makhura's office in February, protesting over the deaths of psychiatric patients.

Gauteng has started setting up a Mental Health Review board following the Life Esidimeni patients scandal.

The provincial Department of Health gazetted a call for nominations for the board on Friday, with a deadline of March 10.

'Suitably qualified candidates will be considered and appointed by the MEC for Health, Dr G.M Ramokgopa. Appointed members will serve on the Mental Health Care Review Boards of health institutions providing Mental Health Care Services in the province," said the notice.

The powers and functions of the review boards include to: make decisions on assisted or involuntary mental health care, treatment and rehabilitation services; consider applications for the transfer of mental health care users to maximum security facilities; and to consider reports on the mental health status of mentally ill prisoners.

Nominees must be South African citizens, and must be health care practitioners, magistrates, attorneys, advocates or "members of the community concerned".

Boards are being set up for Johannesburg, Tshwane, Ekurhuleni, West Rand and Sedibeng.

In his State of the Province address on February 20, Gauteng Premier David Makhura promised to implement the Health Ombuds' recommendations on the Esidimeni investigation. The ombud found that 94 mental health patients died after the Gauteng Health Department moved them from Life Esidimeni facilities to 27 non-governmental organisations which weren't properly registered or monitored; the number of deaths has since been found to be at least 100.

"I will spend the remainder of my term over the next two years, to ensure that there is restorative justice and healing for the families and take every executive action possible to restore confidence in our public health system," promised Makhura in his speech, saying patients would be found and moved to appropriate facilities.

"Learning from this tragic death of mental health patients, I have decided to institute a wide-ranging inspection and condition assessment of all centres that care for the most vulnerable - the elderly, people with disabilities and children — whether they are operated by the public, private or NGO sectors," said Makhura, saying he would appoint a Premier's Mental Health Advisory Panel to help.

On February 23, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told Parliament that a team of 60 experts had visited all 27 NGOs to find the patients and about 600 patients had been moved to state facilities while another 700 were still being moved.