Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu has resigned in the wake of the health ombud’s report into the deaths of 94 mentally ill patients in the province.
Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba, in a report released on Wednesday, affirmed that the patients died after the department negligently moved them from the licensed Life Esidimeni private homes to 27 unlicensed facilities.
In his report titled‚ “94 silent deaths and still counting”, professor Makgoba said investigations found that the number of 94 fatalities is provisional as bodies remain unidentified in morgues and some families are still coming forward with names of dead people.
He lashed out at the MEC for announcing 37 deaths between March 23 and December 19, 2016, whereas the number of deaths was actually 77. Mokogba, thereafter, urged Premier Makhura to discipline and possibly suspend the head of the health department and her director.
“…Mahlangu had lost credibility and her actions and those of two senior officials were “chaotic, hurried, in a rush and a total shambles..,” Mokagba added.
As for the MEC’s resignation, Gauteng Premier David Makhura has accepted the move‚ saying: “Mahlangu understands. If something goes extremely wrong‚ you have to take direct responsibility.”
In a briefing media chat on the outcome of the investigation, the Premier announced that she will be succeeded by Dr Gwen Ramokgopa‚ a former Deputy Minister of Health.
Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, who weighed in on the matter condemned the MEC for the tragic loss of the patients. He expressed disappointment by saying: “I’m distressed and very angry. Something like this should have been avoided.”
The Health Ombudsman also disclosed that the outcome of the investigations was arrived at with the help of over 70 witnesses and eight psychiatric experts.
In October 2016, families of the psychiatric patients called on the government to hold MEC Qedani Mahlangu criminally liable and jailed for the deaths of their loved ones.
The families of those who died and those who were residing at the NGOs at the time made the request during a peaceful demonstration outside MEC Mahlangu’s offices, in the Johannesburg CBD.
It’s now clear that the MEC didn’t recognize that health is about saving lives. It’s even heartbreaking to admit that her resignation will not bring back the dead.