Gauteng Health MEC, Qedani Mahlangu, has resigned following a damning report on the deaths of 94 psychiatric patients, according to a statement issued by the Gauteng Premier’s office.

Mahlangu’s resignation comes amid a report from the Health Ombudsman, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba, which revealed that 94 mentally ill patients died after they were transferred from Life Healthcare Esidimeni to 27 NGOs that were all operating unlawfully.

The patients died between 23 March and 19 December 2016 after the health department terminated its contract with Esidimeni as part of the provincial health department’s cost-cutting measures.

“I deeply regret the tragic loss of so many lives under the care of our provincial government as a result of the action taken by officials in the Gauteng Department of Health to transfer patients from Life Esidimeni to NGOs that were not ready”, said Gauteng Premier, David Makhura.

“The investigation revealed improper and negligent conduct on the part of officials in the Department of Health in implementation of the policy de-institutionalisation of mental health,” continued Makhura.

The Premier has appointed the former Deputy Minister of Health and former MEC for Health, Dr Gwen Ramakgopa, as the new MEC for Health.

“Dr Gwen Ramakgopa’s depth of experience and expertise in the public health sector will help us to overhaul mental health and sustain some of the general improvements that we have been making in the public health system in our province,” said Makhura.

The Premier said he accepts the recommendations made by the report and has instructed the Director General in the Office of the Premier to urgently institute appropriate action.

All patients that are currently placed in NGOs will be transferred back to public healthcare facilities and state owned institutions. This process will be initiated within the next seven days in line with the recommendations of the Health Ombudsman report.

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