Premier overrules MEC and orders Bay facilities stay open
After months of controversy and heartbreak caused by the Department of Social Development, Eastern Cape premier Phumulo Masualle decided yesterday that the contract for Life Esidimeni to run the only two fully state-funded frail care centres in Port Elizabeth will be extended by one year.
This follows a firm response from Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to halt the proposed move of Port Elizabeth frail care patients to non-government organisations (NGOs) which triggered an uproar last year.
The premier’s announcement represents a complete U-turn following Social Development MEC Nancy Sihlwayi’s bull-headed insistence 24 hours earlier that she would go ahead with the controversial plan to move frail care patients to NGOs despite a damning health ombudsman report on the deaths of mentally ill patients in Gauteng.
Yesterday’s decision followed what Masualle’s spokeswoman, Nonala Ndlozu, described as a “hectic cabinet meeting” that lasted until after 5pm.
“The premier will confirm that he had a conversation with the national Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi, and that they have decided the best approach will be to extend the [Life Esidimeni] contract,” Ndlozu, said.
“In the next year, they will find the best way forward for both the department and the frail care patients.”
Health ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba found earlier this week that the Gauteng health department was negligent when it moved 1 900 patients from Life Healthcare facilities to private homes run by unlicensed NGOs, calling the plan reckless, unwise and flawed.