JOHANNESBURG: At least 94 mentally ill patients died after South African authorities moved them last year from hospital to unlicensed health facilities that were compared to “concentration camps“, a government investigation revealed Wednesday.
Many of the deaths were due to dehydration and diarrhoea, as the patients were hurriedly shifted to 27 “poorly-prepared” facilities in a cost-cutting measure, the probe showed.
The health ombudsman report detailed how some patients were collected from the Life Esidimeni hospital in Gauteng province using open pick-up trucks.
Patients were selected in a process like an “auction cattle market“, before being taken away and then often shuttled between several of the new care centres, the report said.
Relatives were left in the dark over where the patients were – or even if they had died in the overcrowded, unheated centres that some witnesses said were like “concentration camps.”
The centres also failed to provide seriously ill patients with enough food and water, leaving them severely malnourished, underweight and even causing deaths from dehydration.
Gauteng provincial health department had terminated its long-standing contract with the Life Esidimeni hospital and moved more than 1,300 patients to an “unstructured, unpredictable, sub-standard caring environment“, the report said.
“One person has died from a mental health-related illness. None of the 93 (others) have died from a mental illness,” health ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba told local media as the report was released.