Gauteng Premier David Makhura announced on Wednesday he accepted the resignation of health MEC Qedani Maglangu. She submitted her resignation a day before health ombud Malegapuru Makgoba released his report into the deaths of a large number of psychiatric patients.
The full statement is below:
Statement by Gauteng Premier, Mr David Makhura on the Report of the Health Ombudsman on the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of mentally ill patients in Gauteng 01 February 2017 On behalf of the Gauteng Provincial Government, I hereby welcome the release of the Health Ombudsman Report so that we can the truth about the circumstances surrounding the passing on of mentally ill patients, our fellow citizens who were under the care of the Gauteng Department of Health.
As the Premier of Gauteng, I accept the Report and will fully and urgently implement its recommendations without any reservation or delay. It is clear from the Report that there has been both improper and negligent conduct on the part of officials in the Department of Health in implementation of the policy de-institutionalisation of mental health. As a result, many of our beloved citizens have died, causing severe pain and anguish among the bereaved families.
I deeply regret the tragic loss of so many lives under the care of our provincial government as a result of the action taken by officials in the Gauteng Department of Health to transfer patients from Life Esidimeni to NGOs that were not ready.
On 06 December 2016, I made a commitment in the Gauteng Legislature in which I expressed my unhappiness with how the de-institutionalisation was handled. I promised, should the investigation find that that was improper conduct or negligence, action will be taken to hold those responsible accountable. I also made the same commitment to the affected and bereaved families when I met them on 15 December 2016.
I take the improper and negligent actions of our officials in a very serious light that must lead to serious consequences and accountability.
Resignation of MEC Qedani Mahlangu
I would like to announce that, last night, I received letter from Ms Qedani Mahlangu tendering her resignation as the MEC for Health and a member of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature. I have accepted her resignation. Like all Members of our Provincial Executive Council, she fully understands that if something goes profoundly wrong in your area of responsibility and executive authority, you have to take direct accountability and not pass the buck to junior officials.
Accordingly, I intend to appoint the former Deputy Minister of Health and former MEC for Health, Dr Gwen Ramakgopa, as the new MEC for Health, pending the amendment of the ANC list at the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL) and her swearing in as a member of the GPL. Dr. Gwen Ramakgopa's depth of experience and expertise in the public health sector will help us to overhaul mental health and sustain some of the general improvements that we have been making in the public health system in our province.
In the meantime, MEC for Social Development, Ms Nandi Mayathula-Khoza will act as the MEC for Health over the next few days.
Disciplinary action against public servants
I have instructed the Director General in the Office of the Premier to urgently institute appropriate action to deal with the recommendations of the Ombudsperson. This will be done within the prescripts of appropriate labour laws and regulations governing the conduct of public servants. Included among the public servants against whom disciplinary action will be taken is the Head of Department, who is the accounting officer and other senior officials identified in the Report. There can be no passing of the buck.
Further announcements will be made over the next few days pertaining to the action against those identified by the Report to have allegedly conducted themselves improperly or negligently.
Withdrawal of patients from NGOs
All patients that are currently placed in NGOs will be transferred back to public health care facilities and state owned institutions where competencies to take care of their specialised needs are available. This process will be initiated within the next 7 days so that it can concluded within 45 days, in line with the recommendations of the Health Ombudsman report.
Working with affected Families to find closure
Dr. Gwen Ramokgopa and I will work with Minister of Health, Dr Aron Motsoaledi, to engage with the affected and bereaved families to find closure, in line with the recommendations of the Health Ombudsman.
I would like to reiterate that I deeply regret and profusely apologise for the tragic loss of lives of our fellow citizens who were patients under the care of our Provincial Department of Health. Health is about saving lives and the circumstances under which the patients died are unacceptable. The action we are going to take to implement the recommendations of the Health Ombudsman will ensure that this situation will never occur in future.
Once again I convey my condolences to the bereaved families as I did during the meeting with them on 15 December 2016. Lastly, I would like to thank Professor Malegapuru Makgoba for his meticulous investigation and Report. This will help us to take remedial action. Issued by Gauteng Provincial Government.