Seven hundred mental patients in the Eastern Cape are at risk‚ with the Life Esidimeni facility in Kirkwood facing closure after its contract was only extended to December.
The decision not to renew the contract flies in the face of several warnings that the non-governmental sector in the province does not have the capacity or training to care for most of the patients.
It follows the distressing Life Esidimeni saga in 2017 when 144 psychiatric patients died after the Gauteng health department terminated its contract with the Life Esidimeni group in that province and moved the patients to ill equipped NGOs.
The Eastern Cape health department’s contract with Life Esidimeni Kirkwood expires at the end of September and officials have only agreed to extend it for three months while they “test the market”.
Life Esidimeni says it has not been told yet that the contract will not be renewed.
The decision comes days after health ombudsman Prof Malegapuru Makgoba asked health minister Aaron Motsoaledi to appoint an administrator to oversee mental health in the Eastern Cape. He said the department had clearly demonstrated time and again that it was “incapable of recovering or correcting by itself and without the assistance of an external tough task master or administrator”.
Provincial health spokesperson Lwandile Sicwetsha said the contract for the Life Esidimeni Kirkwood Care Centre would expire on September 30 and had been extended for three months only while the department tested the market.