By Jack Bloom MPL, DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Health:
A crisis is looming for more than 2000 mental health patients in Gauteng who will be discharged when the Gauteng Health Department terminates its contract with Life Healthcare Esidimeni in March next year.
According to a written reply by Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature, the company currently houses 2009 patients who have chronic psychiatric disorders and severe intellectual disability.
Many of these patients are at the Randwest Care Centre in Randfontein and the Witpoort Care Centre in Brakpan – where they receive good care, treatment and rehabilitation in preparation for their reintegration into the community.
Last year, the company was paid R324 million in terms of its contract with the department, and assisted 2378 patients. It has played a valuable role as a halfway house for patients discharged from the Sterkfontein and Weskoppies psychiatric hospitals.
The department plans to discharge mental patients direct to their homes, but many of them do not have homes to go to or are rejected by their families.
Mental health NGOs are already overstretched in dealing with discharged patients.
If adequate alternate arrangements are not made, there will be many vulnerable people left to fend for themselves and at risk of relapse.
The department cannot simply abandon these patients and needs to make proper arrangements for them.