Neglected and starving patients - Deaths spark fears of Life Esidimeni repeat
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Johannesburg - The deaths of five people in two months at a psychiatric care centre in Cullinan sparked fears of another Life Esidimeni tragedy waiting to happen.
The Kairos Centre, which cares for 125 psychiatric patients, hit the headlines again following claims that patients are being neglected, starved and that there’s a lack of regular monitoring of whether patients are taking their medication.
The DA in Gauteng said it could see the signs of the Life Esidimeni disaster, all over again, when 143 people died at psychiatric facilities across Gauteng from causes including starvation and neglect.
The party’s Gauteng spokesperson for Social Development, Bronwynn Engelbrecht, said it’s alleged that two male patients ran away from Kairos Centre and one was later found and returned to the centre while the other was chased away.
“It is also alleged that the male patient who was chased away left a suicide note five days after being chased away from the centre. Obviously, without any food and nowhere to go, he decided that he could not continue with living and had run in front of a car,” she said.
One of the deaths is that of Shane Jordaan (29), who went missing from the centre on June 4. He had been a patient at Kairos for 11 years. His body was found dumped in a ditch close to Cullinan on July 3. Engelbrecht said before Jordaan’s death, a female patient committed suicide at the centre.
“There are just too many unanswered questions regarding the deaths of these five patients, as well as the services being rendered to psychiatric patients at this centre. Patients who are being provided with the correct nutrition and are being stimulated in a loving and caring environment will not have a desire to run away or commit suicide. The number of runaways and unhappy patients is very concerning and justifies the need for an investigation against Kairos for negligence towards their patients,” said Engelbrecht.
A spokesperson for the Gauteng Department of Health, Kwara Kekana, said the department is aware and has already initiated an investigation into the circumstances around the deaths. The deaths are being investigated by SAPS.
“The investigation is ongoing, and the report has not been finalised. A remedial plan has been developed and implemented. The department will continue monitoring the NGO on a daily basis until they meet the requirements for compliance,” she said.
The Saturday Star tracked down a family member of Jordaan who requested to remain anonymous.
“We only heard from SAPS on June 9 that our brother was missing. He would have turned 30 on August 31. According to the autopsy report, he was hit by a car. He had so many, many broken bones, and the official cause of death doesn’t make sense to us. We have had no answers from Kairos,” she said.
The woman said the family was never allowed inside the premises to see Jordaan and could only pick him up at the entrance for weekend visits.
“How can a mentally impaired person just leave a care facility? My brother could say his name and had memorised our home address, but that’s about as much as he could do. We even had to get our own sniffer dogs. How many more people must die before something happens?” she asked.
Another father, Henning van Wyk, said in contrast to the Jordaan family’s experience, he is happy with the care that his 48-year-old mentally impaired son receives at Kairos.
“Jaco has been at Kairos for the past six years. He has a warm bed, adequate food, and he gets his medication on time,” he said.
The Henning family said they visit their son, who is epileptic and has severe brain damage, at least three times a month at the centre.
“We have never been turned away and are welcome any time,” said the man.
Meanwhile, Engelbrecht said the Gauteng Department of Health must be held accountable for all patients transferred to care facilities that they fund, such as Kairos Centre.
“These centres must be evaluated by the department regularly to determine whether the living conditions are conducive for patients with such a debilitating chronic condition. The DA will continue to hound the Gauteng MEC for Health, Nomathemba Mokgethi, to ensure that a complete investigation is conducted into the role of the Department’s officials and that accuracy is reflected in their evaluation reports,” she said.
The Health Department failed to answer questions about the number of psychiatric care facilities across Gauteng and also the budget allocation per patient to centres.