Backlog at Sterkfontein Hospital causes trial delays

By Jack Bloom MPL, DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Health:

The second postponement of the trial of the man accused of murdering Chumani Nqakula, the son of Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapusa-Nqakula, highlights the problem of long waiting times for evaluations at the Sterkfontein Psychiatric Hospital.

In November last year, Magistrate Albertus Roux ordered murder suspect Carlos Higuera to be referred to Sterkfontein Hospital for evaluation.

Higuera is 157 on the waiting list for admission, which means that it could take more than a year before he is admitted and evaluated for trial.

The backlog at Sterkfontein has worsened since August last year when I was informed by Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu in an official reply that there were 138 male patients awaiting mental evaluation for trial, which would take between 8 to 12 months.

The problem is that there are high staff vacancies – in August last year there were 39 vacancies, including 13 Professional Nurse posts, 6 Nursing Assistant posts, 3 pharmacist posts and 3 psychologists.

It is unacceptable that trials should be delayed for lengthy periods because of the backlog at Sterkfontein Hospital.

Oscar Pistorius was speedily assessed, and the same should apply in all cases.

Urgent action needs to be taken to increase the capacity of Sterkfontein Hospital to evaluate awaiting trial prisoners.