The Gauteng Provincial Government says any suggestion that Premier David Makhura gave instructions or was involved in the transfer of mental health patients from Life Esidimeni to NGOs is false.
The provincial government on Monday said it has noted with concern media reports raising questions about the conduct of Premier David Makhura in relation to the transfer of mental healthcare users from the Life Esidimeni facilities to various NGOs.
During the State of the Province Address on 20 February, Premier David Makhura had said the decision to transfer Life Esidimeni mental health patients to NGOs was not made in consultation with the Provincial Executive Council.
“The Executive Council and I would have never approved a plan to outsource mental health care, a primary responsibility of the state for the vulnerable in society, to NGOs. What is even worse is the fact that such NGOs did not meet appropriate standards and legal prescripts,” said the Premier.
He said the Provincial Executive Council does not interfere in the appointment or retention of service providers by various departments, in strict keeping with the law.
“We dare not be found on the wrong side of the law. I have always emphasised to all MECs and Heads of Departments (HODs) that reviewing contracts with any service provider must never compromise service delivery, especially of the most vulnerable groups, who depend entirely on the state for their well-being. Cost considerations can never override the imperative of the quality of care.”
At the very least, Premier Makhura said, the provincial department should have placed all affected patients in public health facilities or retained the services of private facilities in cases where there was not sufficient space in the public sector.
“I am deeply aggrieved by the extent to which those responsible for this tragic and ill-fated transfer of patients to unlawfully operating NGOs have tried to hide the facts from me, the Minister of Health and the Health Ombud.”
Premier Makhura will testify in the Alternative Dispute Resolution process led by retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke. The provincial government said Premier Makhura is prepared to answer any question from affected parties.
The tragic loss of life of so many people in the care of the provincial government remains deeply regrettable.
Government remains totally committed to the arbitration process and said it will work with affected families and law enforcement agencies to bring those responsible for the tragedy to book.
It has been reported that more than 140 lives were lost to the tragedy.