There’s at least one straw in the winds of non-change that Zuma’s SONA address blew in – and that is his hinting that the federal powers vested in provincial health ministers could soon revert back to National Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. It’s the straw that broke the camel’s back – the 94 deaths of mental health patients transferred (for pure budgetary reasons) from Life Esidimeni to various NGO’s last year and the woeful ignorance and ineptitude of Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu, in preventing them. While she’s stepped down – almost certainly with her Premier’s palm flat in the small of her back – the core of the problem lies with the National Health and Mental Health Acts which currently devolve political power to the provinces. As a health reporter for 16 years, I witnessed first-hand deeply controversial incidents were provincial health ministers (MEC’s), ran riot, with Motsoaledi admitting he was helpless to stop them. Victimisation of devoted, long-serving doctors with MEC’s siding with wildcat healthcare unions, (Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal), healthcare political mafia drumming out a Motsoaledi-recruited provincial health director general when he made too many fundamental healthcare-delivery-inducing changes – and took on debilitating unions (Eastern Cape), overall healthcare delivery implosion (Free State) – the list goes on. It was a recurring response when I put such issues to Motsoaledi – “I’m doing what I can, but my hands are tied”. Perhaps just this one SONA straw can result in provincial health MEC’s responding to mass avoidable baby cholera/diarrhoea and mental health patient deaths with more than the usual; “Right now I’m focussing on supporting the grieving families”. Avoiding political responsibility by hiding behind false compassion is just downright ugly. A bigger stick is needed. – Chris Bateman
By Paul Herman
Cape Town – President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday that government is “deeply distressed” by the death of 94 psychiatric patients who were transferred from Life Esidimeni to various NGOs last year.
“Mentally ill patients are some of the most vulnerable members of society, who need protection from the state itself and society as a whole,” Zuma said at the State of the Nation Address.
“I have instructed the Minister of Health to ensure that the Health Ombudsperson’s recommendations are wholly and speedily implemented without any reservations.”
Zuma said that certain powers and functions in the National Health Act and Mental Health Act could revert back to the Health Minister.
“Once more, we extend our heartfelt condolences to all families and relatives of the deceased.
“Government will provide support so that families do not face this burden alone.
“The Premier of Gauteng and the Minister of Health have already provided this assurance.” – News24