The manner in which 94 mentally ill and intellectually challenged patients died while in the care of several non-governmental organisations has caused a huge outcry, and there are calls for an urgent review of laws to protect the rights of patients and their families. There are also calls for organisations and government departments to be held accountable for those in their care.

President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday that government is “deeply distressed” by the death of 94 psychiatric patients who were transferred from Life Esidimeni to various NGOs last year.

“Mentally ill patients are some of the most vulnerable members of society, who need protection from the state itself and society as a whole,” Zuma said at the State of the Nation Address.

“I have instructed the Minister of Health to ensure that the Health Ombudsperson’s recommendations are wholly and speedily implemented without any reservations.”

Zuma said that certain powers and functions in the National Health Act and Mental Health Act could revert back to the Health Minister.

“Once more, we extend our heartfelt condolences to all families and relatives of the deceased.

“Government will provide support so that families do not face this burden alone.

“The Premier of Gauteng and the Minister of Health have already provided this assurance.”

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