19 Esidimeni victims still unclaimed

2017-02-14 21:13
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. (Karabo Ngoepe, News24)

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. (Karabo Ngoepe, News24)

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Pretoria – Nineteen victims of the Life Esidimeni disaster have still not been claimed by their relatives, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Tuesday.

Police began forensic investigations and efforts to identify the unclaimed bodies in September 2016, he said.

He was briefing reporters in Pretoria on progress made in implementing Health Ombudsman Prof Malegapuru Makgoba’s recommendations, following his investigation into why 94 mentally-ill patients died when they were moved from the Life Esidimeni facility to several unlicensed NGOs.

Motsoaledi was accompanied by Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa.

Motsoaledi said seven facilities used to accommodate mentally-ill patients, which were run by various NGOs, had been closed in October last year.

Over a period of three days earlier this month, 27 NGOs which accommodated mentally-ill patients were visited. The NGOs had about 42 facilities.

Seven of these facilities were closed in October last year. Another 22 would be closed soon.

Since the closure of Life Esidimeni and the facilities operated by the NGOs, mentally-ill patients had been transferred to 10 Gauteng hospitals. About 600 mental health patients were under supervised medical care.

“The interest of mental health users is of paramount importance, and we dare not repeat the deadly mistake of a hurried, chaotic and rush-rush job,” Motsoaledi said.

On February 1, Makgoba said he found that 94 mentally-ill patients died after the Gauteng health department moved them from the Life Esidimeni facilities to 27 unlicensed NGOs last year, to save money.

Makgoba identified former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu, and senior Gauteng health department officials Tiego Ephraim Selebano and Makgabo Manamela as the “key players” in the project.

Selebano was placed on precautionary suspension on February 8.

Disciplinary proceedings for gross misconduct against Manamela were underway. Mahlangu resigned the night before Makgoba announced his findings.

“Their fingerprints are peppered throughout the project. The decision was reckless, unwise and flawed, with inadequate planning and a chaotic and rushed or hurried implementation process,” Makgoba said at the time.

Although most of the deaths occurred at 16 of the 27 NGOs, all of them lacked experienced, qualified staff, and the proper facilities and resources, he said.

Mahlangu previously claimed that her department had vetted all the NGOs.

There was prima facie evidence that some officials and NGOs had violated the Constitution and contravened the National Health Care Act, Makgoba said.

He recommended that disciplinary proceedings be instituted against Selebano and Manamela for gross misconduct during his investigation, which included tampering with evidence.

Read more on:    aaron motsoaledi  |  johannesburg  |  life esidimeni

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