The staff said patients were starving and not receiving the care they needed, alleging the board and management were abusing funds from the government to enrich themselves. Picture: Tumi Pakkies/African News Agency (ANA)
The staff said patients were starving and not receiving the care they needed, alleging the board and management were abusing funds from the government to enrich themselves. Picture: Tumi Pakkies/African News Agency (ANA)

Protesters accuse Durban NPO of ‘starving mental patients’

By Willem Phungula Time of article published Oct 6, 2021

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DURBAN Coastal Mental Health facility staff have urged both the Health and Social Development departments to immediately dissolve the facility’s board to avoid a similar occurrence to the Life Esidimeni disaster, where patients died after allegedly being neglected.

Along with some relatives of the patients, staff protested at the gate of the facility in Sherwood on Tuesday.

Most of the staff who spoke to the Daily News – on condition of anonymity – said there was a need for urgent intervention by both departments.

The staff said patients were starving and not receiving the care they needed, alleging the board and management were abusing funds from the government to enrich themselves.

Bianca Vernhout, vice-chairperson of the Parents and Guardians Association of Sherwood Hostel, said the situation had become worse, and urgent attention by the government was needed to save the patients’ lives. She said that as parents they were always called to help with their children or relatives, leaving their daily commitments.

She said there was no food and medication – to a point where relatives were using their own money to buy what patients needed, adding that they had also relied on donations by various communities.

“Patients here are in desperate need of help, so we called on the government, especially Health and Social Development, which we know pumped in a lot of funds to intervene urgently and dissolve this board before a disaster similar to Life Esidimeni happened. The board and the management were enriching themselves and there is gross neglect of patients,” said Vernhout.

The staff vowed to continue with the protest until the board was dissolved, alleging that when the new board took over in 2019 there was a budget deficit of R2 million, but within two years it had skyrocketed to close to R20m.

In a statement on Tuesday by the facility, chief executive Lungisani Mthinyane said: “Durban Coastal and Mental Health (DCMH) acknowledges the protest action by a group of employees outside the gate of its head office in Sherwood today, and there had been no prior knowledge of the action witnessed. DCMH has not yet received any formal grievances from the protesters, and has not been able to locate the organiser or spokesperson of this gathering.”

Mthinyane said the facility had made significant progress over the past six months and promised to improve the conditions of DCMH, its employees and service users. He listed financial sustainability, accountability and transparency as some of the key things the facility had improved on.

Social Development spokesperson Mhlaba Memela said they had already intervened in the institution and the department was waiting for the report from the investigator appointed by MEC Nonhlanhla Khoza after her visit in August.

Attempts to get comments from Health were unsuccessful.

Daily News

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