The report by Health Ombudsman, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba, on the Tower Psychiatric Hospital and Psychosocial Rehabilitation Centre must not detract from the crisis that is Eastern Cape Mental Health.
The damning findings against the Eastern Cape Department of Health have received far too little comment in the final Ombudsman’s report, not least of which is the fact that they have a long history of failing to self-correct, and have failed to prioritize mental health services for many years.
Even more serious are the Ombudsman’s findings that:
• Work ethic has severely deteriorated;
• Leadership and governance are in disarray; and
• There are severe shortages of staff in general and critical areas.
Every public health facility in the province, without exception, is understaffed. In some cases the understaffing is extreme. Understaffing on such a grand scale results in inadequate care and even neglect, particularly if the work ethic has severely deteriorated.
Neglect of patients, particularly vulnerable patients, is a Human Rights abuse. By omission or commission, the Department of Health, and nothing else, is responsible for this abuse over the long term. Until the staffing shortages are comprehensively addressed, the Department will be exposed to further litigation.
Professor Makgoba has found that the revelations by Dr Kiran Sukeri to the media with regard to the Tower Psychiatric Hospital were disingenuous at best, and were a breach of ethical and professional codes of conduct at worst.
The Democratic Alliance believes that Dr Sukeri had valid concerns but did not follow the correct protocols to express them.
We also believe that the report focuses heavily on an individual, rather than on the appalling failures of the Health Department which have undoubtedly contributed to loss of life in our province.
I will continue to hold the Department of Health accountable, and will continue to drive for improvement in mental health services in the portfolio committee meetings and house sittings. — Jane Cowley MPL, Shadow MEC for Health.
To listen to a sound clip from Jane Cowley on this issue, please click below.