Writing you this update was hard. Despite families' and professionals’ concerns, intervention by Civil society and our campaign, psychiatric patients were relocated to ill-equipped NGOs from Life Esidimeni. Now, barely 3 months later, 36 of them have died . As if to add salt to injury, some families were notified of their loved ones' deaths more than a week after the fact.
We cannot sit and wait for more patients to die, let us pressure the MEC and Premier of Gauteng to act on this now by calling them directly and demand that;
- Government must bury the patients that have perished in their care
- All discharged patients must be taken back to Life Esidimeni until all NGO’s are screened and certified to care for the patients.
- An independent investigation into the deaths of the 36 patients and
- Compensation for families.
Here are the contact numbers;
Premier David Makhura’s Hotline - 0860 42 88 364
Premiers’ Persona Assistant - (011) 355 6138
MEC Qedani Mahlangu’s Spokesperson - 072 574 3860
MEC’s Personal Assistant - (011) 355 3235
I spoke to one of the family members yesterday, Nompilo and she told me that families are torn, angry and have lost all hope because the MEC for Health has refused to listen to their pleas for consultation. Another family member whose sister was also moved to an NGO says,“Had they attended to these things we wouldn't have 36 people dead already. If we could just get co-operation and communication from them it would be so much better.”
Government failed to communicate important details and went ahead with their plans despite a promise to include the families. Those that were eventually notified were assured that NGOs were ready or being renovated to cater for the patients and that patients would receive the same level of care they got previously. Eight of the 36 psychiatric patients who died are reported to have died at an NGO called Precious Angels. It still houses patients, suggesting that as investigations begin, improved care might be a long way off.
Gauteng's Health MEC is quoted as saying that "the department cannot afford" to spend R323 million to treat 2,378 patients at Life Esidimeni facilities , and went ahead with her plan to transfer the patients to NGOs. Even though her decision was in line with policy, such a move was only expected to be implemented in 2021 . Yet, MEC Mahlangu rolled out the plan in 2016. It is reported that some of the patients were transferred without their clinical records .
The amandla .mobi community fought together with the families of the Life Esidimeni - Baneng Centre until the department met with the parents and committed to renewing the contract. The patients there seem safe for now.
Just like Marikana, it seems the lives of Black people have no value. Budgets and profits seem to matter more. The termination of contract with Life Esidimeni and subsequent discharging of patients to NGO’s was conducted in a very inhumane way and gave no regard to patients and concerns by family members. This is why we must continue strengthening our collective voice and hold those in power accountable. We must stand behind the families now and show that people-power works.
Together for justice,
Thuli, Koketso and Nqaba for amandla .mobi
P.S. Please help us spread the message so that many more can support this call. Click here to share on Facebook: goo.gl/AHQ2Jc
[1,3,4] Life Esidimeni: Families of mentally ill patients blame MEC for deaths, Greg Nicholson for Daily Maverick. Sep 15, 2016.
 Gauteng: Contract cancellation may force 2,000 mentally-ill patients out of care homes, Greg Nicholson for Daily Maverick. Feb 16, 2016.