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28 June 2017

In light of recent reports of dramatic, sudden cuts in NGO subsidies in Gauteng, the SA Federation for Mental Health condemns such ill treatment of NGO’s by the Gauteng Department of Health.

Media reports and complaints to our offices have brought to light the fact that the Gauteng Department of Health has failed to pay the monthly subsidies of a number of NGO’s caring for vulnerable mental health care users (MHCU) in the province for the past few months, possibly due to revised licensing guidelines that the Department has hastily put in place in response to the Ombudsman’s damning report on the Gauteng Marathon Project, which saw approximately 100 MHCUs lose their lives due to poor planning and execution by the Gauteng Department of Health.

These NGO’s now face possible closure, and the MHCU face being left destitute, as a result of the Departments actions. It is important to recognise that ultimately any ill treatment of NGO’s by the Department translates into ill treatment of MHCU, as they are dependent on the care and services that they receive from the NGO’s.

SAFMH National Director, Bharti Patel, says the Gauteng Department of Health is not showing its commitment to mental healthcare. “NGO’s have communicated their challenges – which range from not being issued with licenses to non-communication about subsidies - to the Gauteng Portfolio Committee on Health. The Department of Health promised to issue licenses to all of the affected NGO’s two weeks ago, and yet today we hear that licensing is still a problem and this is affecting subsidies. The Department of Health does not seem to be serious about improving mental health services despite the increased budget allocations which were announced after the Health Ombudsman’s report on the Life Esidimeni tragedy.” 

In the wake of the Life Healthcare Esidimeni crisis, the Gauteng Department of Health should be mindful not to again jeopardise lives through carelessness or poor, rushed administrative procedures. While SAFMH recognises the need for new and stricter licensing requirements for NGO’s to be implemented, these procedures should be implemented in such a way that the care of MHCU is not affected and that NGOs are given sufficient time to bring themselves in-line with new licensing demands placed on them by the Department of Health so that service standards may be raised realistically whilst ensuring that the process is managed effectively and is not to the detriment of MHCUs.

SAFMH calls on the Department to pay all of the subsidies owing to the various affected NGO’s, and going forward to manage the licensing process in a more consultative and realistic manner. Whilst we recognise the need for more stringent licensing procedures, such new measures should be implemented with the wellbeing of MHCUs in mind at all times. We call on all parties involved to remember that the most important aspect of this case is the wellbeing of the MHCUs, and we urge all stakeholders to place their interests first.



Marthé Kotze

Programme Manager: Information & Awareness

SA Federation for Mental Health

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Bharti Patel

National Director

SA Federation for Mental Health

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