Workers at the Durban and Coastal Mental Health facility in Sherwood have prevented management from entering the premises. This after they downed tools and called for the board to step down. Workers have urged government to step in.

In recent years, there have been allegations of patients being abused and the mismanagement of funds.

Workers at the facility in Durban have spoken out about the poor conditions under which mentally ill patients are living. A resident care manager – Thandi Msomi – says the complaints by staff about conditions are ignored by management. Earlier this year, government officials expressed shock at conditions when they visited the facility.

Msomi has questioned what government subsidies are being spent on.

“They said no we afford to give them dry bread, let it be, if we afford to give them stale bread if we question why are you giving them stale bread, they said we afford to do that, how can you carry on with people, who do not care about our patients? We are here to care for our mental health users but now the situation is like not caring. It is just that they are eating money, according to what I know government, DSD and DOH, the Department of Health they are subsiding our residents but the monies we do not know where they are going. That is why we asked them to intervene to see where is their money going to because at the end of the day we know they subsidise our residents but the money is nowhere to be found, it just goes to people’s fat pockets,” says Msomi.

Durban and Coastal Mental Health facility workers expected to protest:

Poor conditions at the facility

A concerned community member – Liesel Muhl – has echoed Msomi’s allegations and says conditions at the facility have worsened.

“The staff called me this morning to say that they were going to protest. They are concerned that another Life Esidimeni is going to happen right here at DCMH and that’s what we are trying to prevent you know. In the past, service providers haven’t been paid because there’s not enough money, the roofs are leaking, I mean some of our users were lying in their own urine. So my heart’s broken. Since then, we have obviously worked hard to try and fix things but you know there’s been an investigation from the Department of Health. We are waiting for that report to see where the problem is. Till we know that, there’s nothing much we can do,” says Muhl.

A parent representative and former governing board member – Wilfred Leon Maas – says the current board does not serve the interests of patients.

“At around October 2019, the board was hijacked and a new board took over. And sadly things have deteriorated very very badly since then. Check the bank balance, through misappropriated funds and getting the wrong service providers in and pay them extravagant wages. May I add that my daughter who is now 54, she lost an eye through a care worker who lost her temper whilst changing her nappy. No steps were even taken to say sorry. This child now lives with one eye because of the abuse that she received by caseworkers who are not well trained and don’t belong to unions or actually don’t know who they are working for,” says Maas.

ActionSA joined the protest, with the KwaZulu-Natal Chairperson Makhosi Khoza calling for an investigation into the 80-year old organisation’s financial management.

“We decided to be part of this picket because we do not want a repeat of Life Esidimeni. This tragedy that is about to happen, already the workers have not been paid, we have already seen the officials, the COO is coming in his luxurious vehicle and yet you have workers whose salaries are coming very late. The patients are treated so badly inhumanely and I mean it really another repeat of Esidimeni and we are saying as people of KwaZulu-Natal that is not going to happen under our watch and we want the COO and CEO of this institution to resign with immediate effect and after that we need an investigation so that government can recover monies mishandled,” says Khoza.

Officials from the facility were not available for comment.