Makgoba says that a statistical error led the doctor to overestimate the deaths among patients.
Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba has released reports on the deaths of 90 psychiatric patients in the Eastern Psychiatric Hospital in the Eastern Cape in a report released on Thursday.
Makgoba investigated the allegations after a senior psychiatrist in the Fort Beaufort hospital, Kiren Sukeri, filed a formal complaint with his office about malpractice and human rights violations, including a lack of food in the facility. Sukeri also took these accusations to the media.
But the Ombudsman's investigation found no evidence of humiliating treatment in the hospital with 400 beds. A team of researchers also revealed that Sukeri had used up the death toll from 68 to 90. Under oath, Sukeri finally admitted that he had made a statistical mistake and offered written apologies to both Makgoba and the people's minister Aaron Motsoaledi, the minister said. Calls to Sukeri's private practice in Bedford, Eastern Cape for comments on Thursday were not answered.
Makgoba also accused Sukeri of violating medical ethics by releasing data from the death register of the hospital to media channels. Images of the logbook with patient names and information were broadcast nationally.
"There is no excuse for this violation," said Makgoba.
The psychiatrist's allegations about the Tower Hospital were widely used to claim that the health department of the Eastern Cape was on its way to its own "Life Esidimeni crisis," Makgoba explained. He referred to a health decision by Gauteng in 2015 to move nearly 1 700 psychiatric patients from private-funded private care to mostly non-licensed non-profit organizations that kept patients in deplorable conditions.
At least 144 Gauteng patients died later. The Life Esidimeni tragedy was the first case of Makgoba after Motsoaledi created an ombudsman and Office of Health Standards Compliance to monitor quality and safety within healthcare.
None of the post-mortems performed on Tower Hospital patients linked to deaths from human rights violations, the ombudsman reports states.
"This is not Life Esidimeni," said the ombudsman.
Eastern Cape Health MEC Helen Sauls-August welcomed the report in a statement and praise whistleblowers who raised the problems at the facility.
"The report reveals our weaknesses and creates opportunities for us to boost our systems," Sauls-August said.
The hospital has already begun renovations to resolve some of Sukeri's objections, staff and ombudsman regarding spaces used to separate violent patients for observation.
These were the rooms that were used to isolate psychiatric patients at the Tower Hospital, a report from the South African Association of Psychiatrists (Sasop) was published in 2018. Sasop visited the hospital next to the Treatment Action Campaign after Sukeri's allegations.
But at least one social organization has publicly criticized the Ombudsman's findings. The Rural Health Advocacy Project works with health professionals to enable them to speak out about problems in the health system. The organization tweeted this after the launch of the report.
The Health Ombud & # 39; s report issued today poses a threat to HCW's democratic right to speak out, express concerns and hold bureaucrats accountable. If HCW & # 39; s do not speak out and advocate for patients, who will? @Bhekisisa_MG @HealtheNews @POHF_SA @SpotlightNSP @ russ421 – RHAP (@RHAPnews) 23 August 2018
Sukeri has since resigned from the Tower Hospital, but continues to practice privately. In his report, Makgoba advised that the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) suspended his permit while investigating whether he should continue to practice as a doctor.
"Even in private practice, he is still a danger to patients," said Makgoba.
The Ombudsman had harsh words for the psychiatrist, calling his behavior "dubious" during the investigation "with two faces and evasive" and his competence as a doctor, after it had been determined that he had illegally discharged 51 patients from the hospital. A patient later died of suicide, another committed murder and yet another is still missing. Nearly a dozen remained struggling at home in a province where community services for mental health care virtually did not exist, according to Makgoba.
Makgoba said the complaint had only partially highlighted a systemic lack of mental health care in the province. He gave Motsoaledi 90 days to appoint a mental health manager for the Eastern Cape.
In 2015, Gauteng Health decided to move nearly 1 700 psychiatric patients to mostly non-licensed non-profit organizations – at least 144 patients died later. (Oupa Nkosi)
The minister admitted that mental health care in the public sector was inadequate. He made plans to contract 51 additional private psychiatrists and 72 psychologists to speed up the evaluation and address backlogs in mental health institutions and possibly set up mental health departments in each hospital.
The Ombudsman also requested that at least four media channels make public apologies for what he considered to be an inaccurate report on Sukeri's allegations.
"I can not think it's ethical in a constitutional democracy that the public is still being educated on the basis of unproven, unscientific fact."
Journalists at the press conference argued that their publications had already published corrections to show the correct death toll in the hospital. Others stuck to the media coverage that played a role in the closure of the obsolete & # 39; separation rooms & # 39; from the Tower Hospital and intervened in the distressed mental health services of the province.
But Makgoba remained unmoved: "The media as the fourth estate is important for democracy, but we can not do with a media that spreads lies, no country will survive that."
Let me say it again, my articles and documentary go nowhere. Family testimonies and case studies are VALID. https://t.co/00J4nKexXK – Kathryn Cleary (@clearlykath) 23 August 2018
Have something to say? Tweet or Facebook us at @Bhekisisa_MG