PEOPLE – no matter what colour, culture, race or creed no matter, rich or poor, no matter if they live in suburbs, townships or villages – deserve a caring government.
This is what many in our government departments and institutions forget daily.
It takes catastrophes like what happened in Gauteng, where 94 mentally ill patients died needlessly to bring this sharply into focus. Unfortunately, we live in a country where tragedies and bungles happen all the time and are overlooked.
On Wednesday Health Ombudsman, Dr Malekgapuru Makgoba released his report on the death of 94 patients when they were moved from the Life Esidimeni facility by the Gauteng government to different NGOs around Gauteng. They died during the period from March to December 2016. They were moved so that the Gauteng health department could save some of the R323-million it spent between 2014 and 2015 on caring for the more than 2 000 patients at Life Esidimeni.
Let me quote a few findings from the report: “All the 27 NGOs to which patients were transferred operated under invalid licences. The NGOs where the majority of patients died had neither the basic competence and experience, the leadership capacity nor ‘fitness for purpose’ and were often poorly resourced.” The more you read, the more outraged you become. How did Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu not see this unfolding?
Why were numerous reports of the plight of the patients not acted on by the Gauteng health department? What really made this even worse was the deliberately misleading statement by Mahlangu on September 13 last year that only 36 patients had died when, in actual fact, 77 were already confirmed dead.
What was the real reason Mahlangu took the step to transfer the patients to these NGOs and why was the 40-year-old contract with Esidimeni terminated abruptly?
How many cases like these are happening all around us, but getting no media coverage? Who is going to speak for the poor, marginalised and the vulnerable in our society? So many questions but very few answers. People should not abandon their responsibility to any government, no matter how loved. We should demand accountability and care from those who govern us.
Every time something like this happens, we should take off our political hats and deal with them as human beings first. We should never allow politicking to distract us from issues.