The Gauteng premier David Makhura has assured families of mental patients that he would take necessary action to ensure justice prevailed over the case of the 36 patients killed.
The premier’s comment comes in relation to the awaited report into the deaths of 36 mental patients in Gauteng which has drawn many questions on who would take responsibility for the scandal that hit the province last year.
Health ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba said the report would be released on Wednesday but as the release date for the report draws near, the premier said he would “act on the report without fear or favour”.
“I await the finding of the investigation of the office of the health ombud, so we can hold the relevant people responsible,” Makhura said.
“Should it be found that government officials acted improperly or negligently, I will act without fear, or favour. This matter has caused pain and anguish,” he said after which he met some of the families and reiterated this position.
The 36 patients who died were among the 2 000 who were transferred from the Life Healthcare Esidimeni medical facility to others, following the provincial department’s cancellation of a contract with the institution due to non-affordability.
Makgoba was appointed by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi in September last year, to investigate the circumstances surrounding the deaths of mentally ill patients in Gauteng.
The premier said the patients could have been treated better, they should have been handled better during their removal.
However, some concerned individuals said Makhura’s action should involve the dismissal of Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and the officials responsible for the transfer of the patients to an NGO facility.
One of those is DA provincial health spokesperson Jack Bloom, who asked for Mahlangu to step down, or for Makhura to fire her.
He said it was clear that the transfer of patients was poorly handled and that Mahlangu was warned that deaths of the patients could result from the transfers because certain NGOs were not suitable to treat them.
Section 27 spokesperson Nomatter Ndebele said in a statement earlier, that it was not sufficient for the provincial health department to wait for the completion of the ombud’s probe before acting.
Despite supporting the investigative processes, Ndebele said the patients’ rights were a priority.
“We are committed to taking whatever steps are necessary to protect these patients’ rights,” Ndebele said.