Media Statement – Life Esidimeni: The work continues
16 March 2016, Johannesburg – We are disappointed that our urgent application to stop the Gauteng Department of Health from moving 54 mental health users at Life Esidimeni to Takalani Home – pending the development of a reasonable plan for the users of Life Esidimeni – was dismissed by Judge Bashir Vally in the South Gauteng High Court yesterday morning.
The application was brought in the best interest of extremely vulnerable people and in the context of mental health as a health and human rights issue.
Mental health is a neglected, marginalised and underfunded issue.
SECTION27 respects the court’s ruling, nevertheless we remain concerned about the plight of patients who are residents at Life Esidimeni. Clinicians, other experts and many others in the mental health field share our worries. Finally, families are scared for the wellbeing and safety of their loved ones.
We have agreed with the Department that we will visit Takalani Home to confirm the Department’s claims that, despite it being a children’s facility, Takalani Home is appropriate for the care of adult residents of Life Esidimeni with serious mental illnesses.
Together with our clients we will closely monitor the discharge and placement of patients in the lead up to the closure of Life Esidimeni on 30 June 2016.
We hope to continue working with the Gauteng Department of Health in this regard and call on the Gauteng Department of Health to reaffirm its commitment to the letter and spirit of the agreement reached on 22 December 2015.
SECTION27 was in court on Monday in an urgent application against the Gauteng Department of Health after plans were revealed on Friday to move 54 people between the ages of 24 and 101 from Life Esidimeni to a non-governmental organisation that caters for children.
SECTION27 represents the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, the South African Federation for Mental Health, the South African Society of Psychiatrists and the Association of Concerned Families of Residents of Life Esidimeni.
The respondents were the MEC for Health in Gauteng, the Head of Department for Health in Gauteng, Life Esidimeni and Takalani Home.
This application arose from what we believe was a threatened breach by the Gauteng Department of Health of a settlement agreement concluded between the Department, the applicants and Life Esidimeni. We believe the effect of this breach has the potential to deny appropriate mental health care services to 54 mental health care users currently receiving care at the Life Esidimeni mental health care facilities, operating in terms of a service level agreement concluded between the Department and the facility.
We also believe that the latest move was in breach of a settlement agreement reached in December last year that no patients would be discharged while the various parties continued in a meaningful engagement process.
In its court papers, the Department admitted that is has, on an ongoing basis since December of 2015, been causing the large-scale discharge of users. The Department however has denied that these actions are in violation of the settlement agreement.
The purpose of this urgent court application was to interdict the discharge and/or placement of users at Life Esidimeni to alternative facilities. Our clients sought to halt this process until the Health Department have engaged meaningfully with all stakeholders and developed a reasonable plan that protects the rights of these users and promotes their best interests, including the right to continue to receive mental health care services on at least the same level as what they have been receiving at the Life Esidimeni facilities.
Fore more information contact
Roxanne Joseph (SECTION27): firstname.lastname@example.org