Press Release: Concern over the Violation of the Human Rights of Life Esidimeni Residents

SAFMH News Room


DATE: 16 MARCH 2016

As South Africa celebrates Human Right’s Day on the 21st of March, The South African Federation for Mental Health would like to draw attention to the ongoing Life Esidimeni case. The manner in which the termination of the Life Esidimeni contract has been managed by the Gauteng Department of Health has raised concerns regarding whether the human rights of the residents of the Life Esidimeni facilities are being protected.

The 1200 residents of the Life Esidimeni facilities were not adequately consulted in terms of their relocation, and there are not enough residential facilities available to accommodate them.  This means that many people will either be moved to facilities that do not have the resources needed for their care, or they will be left homeless. Another concern is the allegations that despite a court order compelling the Department to pause the relocations, residents are still being discharged or relocated.

When the termination of the Life Esidimeni contract was announced, the Department claimed that the termination was in line with an ongoing process of de-institutionalisation. However de-institutionalisation (or downscaling of institutionalised care) ideally needs to go hand in hand with the upscaling of community based care and this has not been done adequately enough to ensure that there are NGO’s and facilities that can accommodate these residents by March 2016. There are also concerns that the services and support that theses residents need right now will not be provided, and that this issue is not receiving the necessary attention and resources to ensure a seamless transition for the residents.

SAFMH would ideally like to see the Department reallocate the money that will be saved by the termination of the contract to community based mental health services (in-line with the Mental Health Policy Framework and Strategic Action Plan 2013-2020) rather than redirecting it back to institutionalised care. Cases like this illustrate the lack of implementation of the policy framework and highlight the need for Government to start making a more concerted effort to put policy into practice.

The SAFMH would like to urge the Gauteng Department of Health to protect the human rights of the Life Esidimeni residents, and to continue working with service users and NGO’s in an effort to ensure that the residents receive the care and treatment that they deserve.

Marthé Viljoen
Programme Manager: Information & Awareness
SA Federation for Mental Health
Tel: 011 781 1852

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