A high-level workshop between various organisations that cater for people with disabilities is expected to be held with government in Johannesburg to tackle issues facing, among others, NGOs that undertake to provide care for patients.
This follows the Life Esidimeni tragedy, when “well above 100” of the facility’s patients with mental disabilities died under the care of NGOs.
The Gauteng health department last year transferred more than 1 300 patients to hospitals and NGOs as a cost-cutting measure.
According to National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities national director Therina Wentzel, the workshop seeks to put high on the agenda “preventative measures going forward, so such a tragedy does not occur again”.
“There is never enough that can be done to protect people’s rights. We are looking forward to this,” Wentzel said.
She said it was a relief that this initiative would be coordinated by the social development department.
“Denying information is denying power and information is power. We should not deal with issues as the wheels of government turn.”
Health ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba on Wednesday told parliament’s portfolio and select committee on health the death toll had risen to “well above 100”.
“We are above 100. I can’t say that is the end. From data that is coming, one is quite confident that figure has gone above 100,” Makgoba said.
Wentzel said government officials needed to look at patients as family members when making decisions.
“Government must put itself in the shoes of a family member. Government is trying, but it’s not urgent enough.”
She said some of the issues to be discussed included access to justice and to devices like wheelchairs.
“We come from a bad history of exclusion in society. Let’s not learn another very sad lesson,” she said.
“We are also there to listen to government, shake hands and see how we can address things.”
The DA will, meanwhile, announce today its course of action for dealing with the tragedy.
“It can’t be business as usual while vulnerable citizens are treated inhumanely,” the party said.