The SA Federation for Mental Health welcomes the arbitration hearings currently taking place regarding the Life Esidimeni tragedy. While we recognise that the hearing and the details that are emerging will be emotionally taxing and difficult for the families of the victims, we wish them strength and hope that this process will help them to get the closure and justice they deserve.
It is our hope that the Gauteng Department of Health will take this process to heart, and will make the necessary efforts to self-correct. The fact that former MEC Qedani Mahlangu is not being called as a witness is disheartening, and we hope that all those responsible for what took place will indeed be brought to justice.
While we focus on the important task of helping the victims’ families and those affected by what happened at Life Esidimeni receive some form of justice, it is crucial that we also look at how we can prevent such a tragedy from happening again. From the time that the movement of patients from the Life Healthcare Facilities was announced in 2015, SAFMH and other stakeholders raised alarm over the fact that the proper procedures for deinstitutionalisation, as laid out in the Mental Health Policy Framework and Strategic Action plan, were not being followed.
We were hopeful that following the Life Esidimeni tragedy Government would prioritise the implementation of the Policy Framework, but unfortunately to date this has not been the case. Unless our mental health policy and legislation is properly implemented and supported, mental health care in South Africa cannot improve. SAFMH will continue to advocate for the upscaling of community based mental health services, to help ensure that there are safe and reputable organisations where mental health care users can receive the care and support they need.
Issued by The SA Federation for Mental Health