#Vote4Health | Several political parties dodge questions on how they plan to improve health in Gauteng

What is at stake in South Africa’s upcoming provincial elections when it comes to healthcare? Ufrieda Ho put questions to five political parties about their plans to get Gauteng Health on track to better healthcare services after the polls. Only two parties responded .

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#WhatItsLike: Top forensic pathologist on his career at the autopsy table

Attending the Forensic DNA Symposium recently held in Cape Town where the vital role of DNA analysis in criminal investigations was highlighted, Sue Segar caught up with Professor Ryan Blumenthal, a senior specialist forensic pathologist at the University of Pretoria. Blumenthal was one of the speakers. He told her more about bearing first-hand witness to death and its causes at the autopsy table and what this can tell us about the society we live in.

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INTERVIEW:  Being a good doctor requires empathy, says outgoing health ombud Prof Malegapuru Makgoba

South Africa’s health ombud Professor Malegapuru Makgoba’s tenure as ombud will end at the end of May. Bienne Huisman spoke to him about headline-making investigations into the Life Esidemeni tragedy and conditions at Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital, his childhood in Limpopo, and how he side-stepped former President Nelson Mandela’s invitation to join the African National Congress.

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Women in health: “Everything ends up in the health system,” says psychiatrist Lesley Robertson

Passionate about community psychiatry, Professor Lesley Robertson spent the bulk of her career as a psychiatrist pushing for mental health reform in South Africa. Now, as head of the community psychiatry clinical unit at Sedibeng District Health Service, she is still pushing – among others to improve the essential medicines lists for psychiatric medicines and shore up community-based networks of churches, community groups, and assisted living homes as soft landings for people in need. Ufrieda Ho spoke to her as part of Spotlight’s Women in Health series.

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Stix Morewa Hospital’s mental healthcare users stay put… for now.

In February, Stix Morewa Hospital in Selby, Johannesburg sent out a letter to the families of the over 400 mental healthcare users in their care. In this letter, families were reportedly informed that the Gauteng Department of Health will terminate its contract with the hospital by the end of March, which would have meant that the mental health users would have had to be transferred elsewhere. Thabo Molelekwa looks at the developments since then.

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LIFE ESIDIMENI INQUEST: Part 2- Recap on its progress and what to expect

The Life Esidimeni Inquest stands as a crucial accountability process for a national tragedy that ought never to have happened and should never happen again, writes Julia Chaskalson and Mbali Baduza as they summarise and assess progress at the inquest since October – having previously written about the first months of the inquest from July to October last year.

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In-depth: Is government ready to invest in mental health?

Mental health does not have its own ring-fenced budget and given huge inefficiencies in our mental health spending, we need to be strategic on where and how we spend the little we have. Alicestine October unpacks what a new government-commissioned mental health investment case framework can mean for access to equitable and quality mental health services in the country. 

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Life Esidimeni Inquest: Journal of a grieving sister

The Life Esidimeni Inquest that started in July has been postponed until 15 November. This is the fifth postponement, meaning another agonising wait for family members of the deceased. The Inquest is crucial to determine who should be held criminally liable for the deaths of 144 mental healthcare users in 2016. Here one family member, Christine Nxumalo, shares in her own words some extracts from her journal on the Inquest proceedings, the long wait, and dealing with grief.

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In-depth: SA’s mental health policy has lapsed, what happens next?

Once widely hailed, South Africa’s Mental Health Policy Framework and Strategic Plan 2013 – 2020 lapsed last year, with mixed reviews on its implementation from mental healthcare stakeholders. The National Department of Health now says the revised and updated Policy Framework and Plan will be in place in the next financial year. Tiyese Jeranji spoke to experts and activists about what the lapsed policy framework achieved and what to improve.

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