4 of 144 patients do not form part of Life Esidimeni arbitration process – ombudsman

2018-02-06 21:44
Family members of patients who died after being moved from Life Esidimeni to inadequate facilities attend the arbitration hearing into the matter. (File, Gallo Images / The Times / Alaister Russell)

Family members of patients who died after being moved from Life Esidimeni to inadequate facilities attend the arbitration hearing into the matter. (File, Gallo Images / The Times / Alaister Russell)

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Motsoaledi's 'crocodile tears' are not going to mislead us over Esidimeni tragedy - Malema

2018-02-06 10:17

EFF leader Julius Malema said former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu shouldn't be the only person to get the lion's share of the blame for the Life Esidimeni tragedy.WATCH

Johannesburg – The Health Ombudsman on Tuesday clarified that four people out of the 144 who were included in the number of mentally ill patients who died during a transfer project by the Gauteng health department will not be part of the Life Esidimeni alternative dispute process. 

Ombudsman spokesperson Ricardo Mahlakanya explained that the four mentally ill patients were not part of the department's marathon project which moved psychiatric patients from Life Esidimeni to a number of NGOs, some of which were unlicensed.

Initially, the South African Police Service said that the number of people who died in the tragedy was 144. 
"We were requested by the Gauteng health department to verify the figure provided by the police and we can confirm that a total of 140 patients qualify for inclusion into the alternative dispute," Mahlakanya said.

On February 1, 2017, Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba revealed that at least 94 patients had died after being moved from the Life Esidimeni facilities to 27 NGOs across the province in 2016.

They died of thirst, hunger and cold. The department cancelled Esidimeni's contract as part of cost-cutting measures.

Rising death toll

Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu stepped down in the wake of the scandal.

In February last year, Makgoba told Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Health that the death toll would continue to rise, after more than 100 patients were reported to have died.

Makgoba said his office had continued to receive data from the public since his report on the disastrous move was made public.

WATCH: Motsoaledi's 'crocodile tears' are not going to mislead us over Esidimeni tragedy - Malema

His findings included that the 27 NGOs were under-resourced, under-financed and ill-equipped to take on the influx of psychiatric patients.

At the time, Makgoba said Mahlangu had initially claimed that 36 patients had died.

However, his investigation uncovered that 94 patients had died between March 23 and December 19, 2016.

He also suspected the number could be higher as many families had not been informed about the deaths of their relatives.

Project 'chaotic'

In the report, he listed a number of recommendations.

Among them were that the minister of health must lead and facilitate a process jointly with the premier of the province to contact all affected individuals and families and enter into an alternative dispute resolution process. 

However, the families did not trust the health department officials.

"The national department of health must respond humanely and in the best interest of affected individuals, families, relatives and the nation. The process must incorporate and respect the diverse cultures and traditions of those concerned. 

"The outcome of such process should determine the way forward such as mechanisms of redress and compensation," the report read. 

Last week, Gauteng health MEC Dr Gwen Ramokgopa admitted that the Life Esidimeni marathon project was "chaotic" and "badly managed".

Culture of fear

Her comments followed the testimony of Mahlangu, who claimed she did not know that there were challenges with the project.

During her much-anticipated testimony in Parktown, Johannesburg, Mahlangu deflected blame from herself regarding who was ultimately responsible for the deaths of more than 100 psychiatric patients who were moved to a number of inadequate and some unlicensed facilities.

The former MEC said that the move could have been handled better, and in a manner that promoted human dignity and the right to life.

Mahlangu told the panel that she began to mistrust the reliability of information she was receiving from health officials during the saga as more complaints and media reports surfaced. She began thinking it was a political game.

Levy Mosenogi, the head of the Life Esidimeni project, claimed that he was scared of Mahlangu.

Mosenogi was not the only official who claimed to fear Mahlangu. 

Former provincial health department head Barney Selebano previously said he was afraid to stand up to her and he continued acting in contravention of the rights of mentally ill patients under her instruction. 

Read more on:    life esidimeni  |  johannesburg  |  health

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