Pretoria – Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu has resigned in the wake of a report into the deaths of mentally ill patients, Gauteng Premier David Makhura said on Wednesday.
He received her resignation letter on Tuesday night and accepted it, Makhura told reporters in Pretoria.
He was speaking at a briefing on the outcome of an investigation into the deaths of mentally ill patients transferred from the Life Esidimeni facility to several NGOs in 2016, as part of the provincial health department’s cost-cutting measures.
At least 94 of the patients died between March 23 and December 19 last year, Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba said at the briefing.
Mahlangu had lost credibility and her actions and those of two senior officials were “chaotic, hurried, in a rush, and a total shambles”, he said.
Makhura said Mahlangu understood that if something went “profoundly wrong, you take direct accountability”.
Mahlangu initially claimed that 36 patients had died. Makgoba suspected that the number of deaths could be higher than 94. He said many families were not informed about the deaths of their relatives.
Makgoba said 18 out of 47 transferred patients died at Precious Angels NGO shortly after Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi instructed him to investigate.
None of the 27 NGOs had valid licences. This was unlawful, as the victims were vulnerable, and all the NGOs had to face the law, he said.
One of the family members broke down during the briefing as Motsoaledi spoke about the reasons for the investigation.
“I’m not embarrassed,” Motsoaledi said.
“I’m distressed and very angry. Something like this should have been avoided.”
Life Esidimeni cared for about 2 000 patients and received its funding from the department.
Makgoba said he interviewed more than 70 witnesses and worked with eight psychiatric experts.
Makhura said he would appoint Deputy Health Minister Gwen Ramokgopa as health MEC. She was formerly Gauteng health MEC.
In the meantime, Gauteng social development MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza would act as health MEC. Makhura said Mahlangu would release a public statement soon.