Health ombud to shed light on probe into Eastern Cape's Tower Psychiatric Hospital

The health ombudsman is expected to shed light on an investigation into allegations of patient mismanagement and rights violation at Tower Psychiatric Hospital in Fort Beaufort in the Eastern Cape.

Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba is expected to brief the media in Pretoria on a report.

The briefing is expected to be attended by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and his deputy Joe Phaahla, health department director general Malebona Matsoso and Office of Health Standards Compliance CEO Siphiwe Mndaweni.

News24 previously reported that the hospital was potentially a ticking bomb, after concerning findings by the South African Society of Psychiatry (Sasop).

Sasop visited the institution following complaints from a psychiatrist at the hospital.

Findings

Its findings included the abuse of mentally-ill patients' rights, a failure to provide care in line with the Constitution, missing death record, and a failure by management to address systemic challenges.

Sasop president Bernard Janse van Rensburg said at the time that problems at the hospital had existed for a long time.

Van Rensburg added that the 400–bed hospital had been used for many years as a non-voluntary, inpatient facility for patients who had serious mental conditions that required long-term care for people from across the province.

However, he said there had been no development in the province to facilitate the implementation of the appropriate deinstitutionalisation of patients to be treated in a less restrictive community-based environment close to their homes.

The hospital's record drew comparisons to the Life Esidimeni tragedy when part-time psychiatrist Kiran Sukeri told Rapport that 90 patients had died since 2010, with four deaths reported in January alone.

Complaint

Sukeri submitted a complaint to the health ombudsman, the SA Human Rights Commission and the SA Society of Psychiatrists.

In March, Health MEC Pumza Patricia Dyantyi and spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo were accompanied by a journalist when they made a surprise visit to the hospital.

"What we saw was a very different picture from what was reported," Kupelo told News24 at the time.

He denied as completely false the claim that 90 patients had died since 2010."The number of people who died from 2010 to date is 63 and not 90 as [Sukeri] claimed," explained Kupelo.Despite their positive impression of the hospital following the visit, Kupelo said that an independent investigative panel was appointed to assess the conditions at the institution.