The families of 37 psychiatric patients who died after being transferred from Life Healthcare Esidimeni say they believe their loved ones were sacrificed by the government for money.

The patients died after being transferred to various NGOs across Gauteng earlier this year.

The Gauteng Health Department says it terminated its contract with Esidimeni in efforts to save costs.

While the department says it terminated its contract with Esidimeni because it was becoming too expensive, family members say they don’t understand why their loved ones were targeted without other avenues being explored, in order for the government to save costs.

Families of the deceased and those living at the NGOs were at the office of Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu in the Johannesburg CBD.

As Section 27’s Mark Heywood spoke, the families called for Mahlangu to step down. He said Mahlangu was not fit to hold public office.

Heywood adds the MEC has ‘blood on her hands’ and he hopes this speaks to her conscience.

The families and supporters sang around 37 white handmade crosses to represent all those who died.