Excerpt from Premier David Makhura's 2018 State of the Province Address
Honourable Members, the Life Esidimeni tragedy has exposed deep institutional problems within our public health system and public service in general. It cannot be business as usual.
Serious governance failures have compromised the quality of care of millions of people who depend on our public health system, especially the poor and most vulnerable sections of society such as those who use mental health services.
The people of Gauteng, I would like to reiterate that the death of 144 Life Esidimeni mental health patients is a tragedy that has left deep wounds and pain in the collective memory of our democratic nation. It is something that should have never happened and should never happen again.
The Gauteng Provincial Government had budgeted enough money for mental health care services. I would like to reiterate that the transfer of mental health care patients to ill-equipped and unlawfully operating NGOs was never approved by myself or the Gauteng Executive Council.
However, as the head of government in the province I have taken full responsibility and accountability for this tragic loss of life of our fellow citizens. I cannot pass the buck. I am the Premier of this province. The buck stops with me. I take responsibility for anything that goes wrong in the administration I lead. I must face the people and fix the problem.
I dip my head in shame and once more apologise that this happened under my watch and I am totally committed to take corrective and remedial action to ensure that this never happens again.
I have made a public commitment that I will work tirelessly with the families to ensure that those who are criminally liable, as determined by the relevant law enforcement agencies, are prosecuted so that the cause of justice is served.
We keenly await the outcomes of the Alternative Dispute Resolution process led by retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke.
I am absolutely determined to speedily implement the outcomes of the ADR process in order to ensure redress, justice and closure for the affected families. After consultation with the Family Committee, I will appoint an independent Curator who will ensure that all the decisions of Retired Deputy Chief Justice Moseneke are implemented.
How a nation cares for the most vulnerable in society is a defining feature of the values of that nation. In April, this year, I will appoint a panel of experts and civil society representatives who will review our work in caring for the most vulnerable in society – people with mental illness, the elderly, people with disabilities and children.
Another defining feature of a caring nation is how it looks after its military veterans and the men and women who put their lives on the line for their country.
Last year, we established the Military Veterans Desk in the Office of the Premier which is working with the Department of Military Veterans and municipalities to address the plight of our military veterans. Substantial progress is being made to address their housing, educational, health and public transport needs.
Urgent steps are being taken to turn around the performance of the Gauteng Department of Health.
The Minister of Health and myself have jointly appointed an intervention team of public health experts and managers to support the Health MEC, Dr Gwen Ramokgopa, in turning around the performance of the Gauteng Department of Health by attending to all the deep structural and financial problems. We are confident this intervention will succeed.
The Life Esidimeni tragedy has brought to the fore that there are some of our public health workers and public officials who treat patients and citizens with disrespect and disdain. This is totally unacceptable and is not representative of the tens of thousands of health care professionals and workers who are compassionate and dedicated to public service excellence.
Gauteng province runs the biggest health system in Southern Africa which caters for over twenty million visits per annum. It has several centres of excellence which should be appreciated and strengthened even as we work to turn around the overall performance of the health system.
Listen to this part of the address here -
Listen to the full SOPA 18 here -