Gauteng Health Department: Gwen Ramokgopa To Become New MEC


Days after Former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu tendered her resignation to Gauteng Premier David Makhura, Former Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa will on Monday, be sworn in as new Gauteng Health MEC.

Mahlangu whose resignation was linked to the controversial death report of over 90 mentally ill patients, will be replaced by Mahlangu as the province’s health MEC.

Mahlangu resigned a night before the Health Ombudsman made public damning findings against her for her role in the case of 94 mentally ill patients who died after being transferred from Life Healthcare Esidimeni to various illegal non-governmental organizations across the province when Mahlangu terminated her department’s contract with the facility.

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Though this is not the first time Gwen Ramokgopa will play a role in Gauteng’s health sector, she is expected to restore peace and confidence to the city’s health sector

Ramokgopa was chairperson of the health portfolio committee in the Gauteng provincial legislature in 1998 before serving as MEC for health between 1999 and 2006.

She was made the deputy minister of health in 2010 and now, she returns to take the helm in Gauteng after Mahlangu was found to have been negligent and reckless in her decision to move over 1,300 mentally ill patients from Life Esidimeni Healthcare.

The youth wing of the ANC, had at a time, launched a remark questioning the integrity and competence of Gwen Ramokgopa who will be taking over as the province’s health MEC, but the ANCYL withdrew its remark after its mother body lashed out at them for their comments, describing them as atrocious and despicable during this painful time for the bereaved families.

Meanwhile, as we look forward to seeing Gwen Ramokgopa become the new health MEC in Gauteng, an emerging report also revealed that most of the 94 mentally ill patients who died, were condemned to slow, agonizing deaths.

Sunday times reported this weekend, that a fifty-year-old Virginia Machpela died 47 days after the Gauteng health department shunted responsibility for her care onto an NGO in Atteridgeville last year.

According to the report, Machpela- who happens to be one of the 94 victims of the department’s policy identified so far- was suffering from major depression and dementia. She was moved for the pitiful saving of R208 a day but she eventually died on August 15.

Her sister Christine Nxumalo told the Sunday Times the department bulldozed through the plan despite concerns raised by relatives. “All they wanted was to rubber-stamp this process as quickly as possible,” she said.

Another relative of the victim of the policy said she was informed that her late husband, Freddie, who suffered from severe depression, had to be moved out of an Esidimeni facility to make space for “someone who was sicker than him”.

The 61-year-old father of three died after spending months at another NGO facility, Mosego while department ‘saved’ a measly R43680 rehousing him.

The NGOs received R112 a day to care for the mentally ill patients, slashed from R320 a day – a saving of R208. This amount was expected to cover everything from soap to food, nursing care, and psychiatric medication.

Even the meager R112 subsidies were coming in drops, said the manager at Tshepong Centre who had been waiting for four months for the subsidy to be paid.

The comment by the manager counters words by the former health boss, Mahlangu who claimed that all the NGOs were properly funded. The ombudsman found some NGOs did not get money for three months and went bankrupt trying to feed patients. Some patients starved to death and most NGOs did not have nurses.

An extraordinary set of e-mails highlights Mahlangu’s contempt for relatives who raised concerns about their loved ones being moved.

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In one exchange she eventually threatened to communicate with the English-speaking daughter of a patient in Zulu in future.

Questioned about Gauteng premier David Makhura’s culpability in the scandal, his spokesman Thabo Masebe said he had not been involved in any way in the decisions that led to the cancellation of the Life Esidimeni contract.