‘I’m not going to pay for ill people’
Despite a scathing health ombudsman report on the deaths of mentally ill patients in Gauteng, Eastern Cape Social Development MEC Nancy Sihlwayi has insisted she will go ahead with a controversial plan to move Port Elizabeth frail care patients to non-government organisations (NGOs).
She said yesterday she was not swayed by ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba’s report that led to the resignation of Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu.
Sihlwayi’s intransigence follows an outcry towards the end of last year when the provincial Department of Social Development announced plans to move 240 patients from the only two fully state-funded frail-care centres in Port Elizabeth, run by Life Esidimeni – a subsidiary of Life Healthcare – and rehouse them with NGOs.
Makgoba found yesterday that the Gauteng Department of Health was negligent when it moved 1 900 patients from Life Healthcare facilities to private homes run by unlicensed NGOs, calling the plan reckless, unwise and flawed.
He found that the Gauteng move had led to the deaths of at least 94 patients.
But Sihlwayi said yesterday: “Our situation is not the same thing. That was health. I don’t deal with sick people.”
Sihlwayi said she had seen the report but was going ahead with her plans regardless.
“Do you remember when I said that I have no intention to extend the contract for Life Healthcare? Nothing has changed,” she said.
Sihlwayi and department director-general Stanley Khanyile agreed to a court order late last year that Life Esidimeni’s contract to run the Lorraine Frail Care and Algoa Frail Care centres would be kept open until the end of this month.
The case, brought by the Frail Care Crisis Collective (FCCC) – a group of patients’ families – is back in court on February 23, when a judge will decide whether the contract must be extended further.
In the meantime, the department is barred from moving anybody from the centres without the permission of Advocate Sarah Sephton, who was appointed as a curator for the patients.
Sihlwayi said her department had had to readvertise a call for proposals on Saturday as only six NGOs indicated last year that they could take patients from the frail care centres.
She is determined to finalise the process by the end of the month.
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