JOHANNESBURG – Jack Bloom, a Democratic Alliance (DA) MPL in Gauteng and DA Shadow MEC for Health, who was among those opposed to the disastrous transfer of mentally ill patients from Life Esidemeni to unlicensed NGOs, said he was being prevented from inspecting a state facility in Lenasia.
The health ombudsman’s recent report indicated that as many as 94 psychiatric patients died after they were transferred. Some patients were still at these facilities while others had been moved to state hospitals.
Bloom said on Tuesday he went to the Lenasia South Hospital, where 34 psychiatric patients had been recently transferred from an unlicensed NGO. However, officials there prevented him from having access to the patients.
“The Sub-district Manager, Ms Zay Suliman, told me and local DA Ward councillor, Vinay Choonie, that her instructions from the national Health Department and the Premier’s Office were that no outsiders, including politicians, were to visit without permission from the MEC for Health”.
Bloom said it was most unfortunate that his right and duty of oversight was violated on the burning issue of psychiatric patient care where there has been so much abuse. “I tried to contact the MEC’s office, but was not able to get through,” said Bloom .
“Why is there still secrecy in this matter and why am I still barred from a public health facility despite the fact that my right to unannounced visits has been repeatedly endorsed by the Gauteng Legislature?”
Bloom said the new Legislature standing rules guarantee access to MPLs to provincial government facilities to exercise oversight. He said he would take the matter up with the Speaker of the Gauteng Legislature .
Contacted for comment Spokesperson for the Premier of Gauteng Phumla Sekhonyana said: “The mangers of facilities are required by law to ensure that the privacy and dignity of the mentally ill patients they are looking after is protected. It is in this context that access to these facilities is limited.”
– African News Agency
Jack Bloom outside Johannesburg Central Police Station earler this week. Picture: Thembelihle Mkhonza, ANA