The South African Human Rights Commission notes with grave concern, the death of 36 patients who were among the 1300 patients transferred from Life Esidimeni to various NGOs. The Commission expresses its sincere condolences to the bereaved families and friends of those who passed away.
The Commission is monitoring the matter closely and has formally requested responses from the Gauteng Department of Health in order to ascertain, amongst other things, what steps were put in place by the Department to ensure the safety and well-being of patients who were transferred from Esidimeni to NGOs across the province.
The MEC for Health has responded to the Commission, confirming that the termination of the contract with Esidimeni was influenced by a number of factors, including policy and legislative considerations that favour community-based care over institutional care.
The MEC has confirmed further that the termination of the contract with Esidimeni followed a review of a number of longstanding contracts with service providers, in line with prescripts of the Auditor General, as well as constitutional imperatives regarding public procurement. In addition, placement of patients was carried out through a specialist project team and the suitability of NGOs to cater for specific needs of patients was assessed prior to placement.
The Commission has welcomed the swift response by the Department in referring the matter to the Health Ombudsman, and the independent internal investigation on which the Department has embarked.
The Commission has also formally engaged with the Health Ombudsman to share information that is privy to the Commission, as a result of its own site inspection earlier this week, of one of the NGOs concerned.
The Commission will continue to monitor the two investigative processes run by the Department and the Ombudsman closely, in line with our Constitutional mandate.