20/04/2017 18:33 BST | Updated 20/04/2017 18:45 BST

Less Than Half Psychiatric Esidimeni Patients Moved To Adequate Facilities

Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba had asked the Gauteng health department to move all mentally ill patients to adequate facilities by the middle of April.

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Demonstrators gathered in front of the office of the presidency of Gauteng State hold placards during a protest held over the death of 94 psychiatry patients sent to civil society organization headquarters by the Esidimeni Clinic in Johannesburg.

Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa revealed on Thursday that less than half of the 1900 mentally ill patients which had been moved from Life Esidemeni to various NGOs have been transferred to "suitable facilities".

"We have over the past 79 days been working very closely with the Office of the Minister of Health, the Premier of Gauteng and the families in the transfer of mental health patients to appropriate and suitable facilities," Gauteng Health MEC Dr Gwen Ramokgopa said in a statement.

To date 592 mental patients have been transferred, Ramokgopa said.

In February, Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba asked the Gauteng health department to move all mentally ill patients to adequate facilities by the middle of April. The patients were originally transferred from the Life Esidimeni facility to NGOs which lacked suitable facilities and resources in a cost-cutting measure.

In April, Makgoba extended the department's deadline for transfers to the end of April.

Ramokgopa promised that the department will keep to the extended deadline.

"The Health Ombud has agreed based on the progress made and support to the NGOs in the interest of patients, to extend the 45-day deadline for the transfer of patients. The multi-disciplinary team of experts involved in the process of moving patients have advised that the 45 days will have an adverse effect on the well-being of the patients. The projected date for the transfer of all patients is end of April 2017," Ramokgopa said.

He said disciplinary action against the suspended head of health department, Barney Selebano, has been postponed to allow him to make representations to the Health Ombudsman.

Selebano, former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and director Makgabo Manamela was identified by the Health Ombudsman as the "key players" in the project to transfer patients to NGOs.

An estimated 100 patients died while in the care of the NGOs.

Ramokgopa said forensic investigations were underway to establish the cause of death for each of the patients.

An interim chairperson has also been appointed to the Mental Health Care Review board to strengthen the board.

"We have committed as the Department to provide the public with regular updates on the work that we are doing in the implementation of the Health Ombudsman Recommendations," Ramokgopa said.