94 deaths: DA calls for SAHRC investigation - Wilmot James

DA MP says country needs a credible healthcare facility surveillance system

94 deaths: DA calls for SA Human Rights commission investigation

The death of 94 mentally ill South Africans in Gauteng is a national tragedy. As this number set to increase the DA extends our deepest condolences to the families of those who died after they betrayed and morally let down.

Prompted by the DA’s Jack Bloom, Health Ombudsman, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba, distinguished himself, as did Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, in lifting the lid off a reality none of us wished to see.

Professor Makgoba recommended that Minister Motsoaledi should request the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to undertake a ‘systematic and systemic review of human rights compliance and possible violations nationally related to mental health.’

The DA agrees with this recommendation, and will write to SAHRC to request that the investigation begin urgently.

If we are to prevent this kind of tragedy in the future, there are two further vital compliance and regulatory reforms required, as the DA points out in Our Health Plan:

1.  Firstly, the Office of Health Standards Compliance (OHSC) must become an independent, robust and pro-active body that sniffs out non-compliance to health and medical ethics’ standards. Presently, it is a reactive and passive institution that moves at a dolorous pace; and

2. Secondly, the vaguely defined and conflicted powers of Provincial Health MECs against which their appointment, performance and accountability are measured and exacted must be remedied with immediate effect.

There is no question that if South Africa had a credible healthcare facility surveillance system, the alarm would have gone off a long time ago, allowing a chain of command to react accordingly to prevent the deaths.

When there is reasonable cause to suspect that an unnatural death was due to neglect, individual inquests must, by law, be set up for every one of 94 individuals.

South Africa will therefore be rightfully confronted with tragic individual stories of misery and death in the full glare of the public eye as the inquests proceed over the next two to three years.

Legalities must be confirmed, but there is enough evidence for us to take Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu beyond mere resignation and have her, and the many civil servants identified by Makgoba in his Report, tried in a court of law.

Gauteng Premier, David Makhura, must also take his full share of responsibility because Mahlangu was directly accountable to him.

We must learn from the unnecessary deaths of 94 South Africans and ensure that it does not happen again. We can reform the appointment, performance and accountability practices and habits that led to these deaths. In Our Health Plan the DA shows how this will be possible.

Statement issued by Dr. Wilmot James MP, DA Shadow Minister for Health, 5 February 2017