Today's Big Stories

Health Dept 'ignored' psych patient transfer warnings - mental health groups

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) says it warned the Gauteng Health Department, last year, against plans to relocate psychiatric patients.

Sadag says that those responsible need to be held accountable for the deaths of 36 psychiatric patients in Gauteng, who died after being transferred from the Life Healthcare Esidimeni Centre to NGOs and other hospitals across the province.

However, Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu has cautioned the public not to jump to conclusions surrounding the deaths, as an investigation is ongoing.

It doesn't mean that those people died on the basis that they were moved. So let's not get into that, let's allow the professionals to investigate.

Qedani Mahlangu, Gauteng Health MEC

The patients were all moved to other facilities after the department terminated its contract with the centre earlier this year.

Sadag's Cassey Chambers explains that the families of the patients were not notified prior to their transfer from Esidimeni Centre.

In addition, patients were moved to facilities that were ill-equipped to provide care, and many of them arrived without their medical records.

Unfortunately, a lot of the family members weren't notified where their loved ones were being moved to, when or how they were being moved.

Cassey Chambers, Operations Director at SADAG

Patients were moved without their medical records or medication - basically, with the clothes on their back.

Cassey Chambers, Operations Director at SADAG

According to Chambers, some patients went without beds, food, medication, therapy and other care.

At the same time, the South African Society of Psychiatry (Sasop) also says it had brought concerns to Qedani before the transfer, but she failed to respond last year.

The provincial department of health ignored the South African Society of Psychiatry, expert advise, occupational therapist and the Society of Psychologists.

Dr Mvuyiso Talatala, President of the South African Society of Psychiatry

Listen to the full conversation from The Midday Report:

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