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By Eric Naki

Political Editor

Makhura vows to act ‘without fear or favour’ over psych patient deaths saga

The Gauteng premier said he was determined to take necessary action to ensure justice prevailed.

As the release date for the report into the deaths of 36 mental patients in Gauteng nears, the question looms whose head must roll over the scandal that hit the province last year.

Premier David Makhura recently assured the families of the patients and Gauteng residents that he would “act without fear or favour”.

Health ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba said the report would be released on Wednesday.

Makgoba was appointed by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi in September to investigate the circumstances surrounding the deaths of mentally ill patients in Gauteng.

The 36 patients who died were among the 2 000 who were transferred from the Life Healthcare Esidimeni medical facility to others, following the provincial department’s cancellation of a contract with the institution due to non-affordability.

Makhura said he was determined to take necessary action to ensure justice prevailed. He later met some of the families and reiterated this position.

The premier said the removal of the patients could have been handled better.

READ MORE: Ombud report on psych patient deaths to be released 

“I await the finding of the investigation of the office of the health ombud, so we can hold the relevant people responsible,” Makhura said.

“Should it be found that government officials acted improperly or negligently, I will act without fear, or favour. This matter has caused pain and anguish.”

Some said Makhura’s action should involve the dismissal of Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and the officials responsible for the transfer of the patients to an NGO facilities.

One of those is DA provincial health spokesperson Jack Bloom, who asked for Mahlangu to step down, or for Makhura to fire her.

Bloom said it was clear that the transfer of patients was poorly handled. He said Mahlangu was also warned that deaths could result from the transfers because certain NGOs were not suitable to treat them.

Section 27 spokesperson Nomatter Ndebele said in an earlier statement that it was not sufficient for the provincial health department to wait for the completion of the ombud’s probe before acting.

Despite supporting the investigative processes, Ndebele said the patients’ rights were a priority.

“We are committed to taking whatever steps are necessary to protect these patients’ rights,” Ndebele said.

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