DA to open missing persons case to find 62 Life Esidimeni patients

2018-01-29 06:22
Former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu testifies during the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings. (Alet Pretorius, Gallo Images, file)

Former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu testifies during the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings. (Alet Pretorius, Gallo Images, file)

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Cape Town - The DA's Jack Bloom is on Monday expected to open a missing persons case at the Johannesburg Central Police Station to help locate 62 Life Esidimeni patients who have still not been found.

"It is deplorable that more than 18 months since the tragedy unfolded, the Gauteng Department of Health still does not know the whereabouts of these vulnerable patients who will die without decent medical care," the party said in a statement.

"Disability grants are being collected for some of them, but we don’t know if fraud is involved and who is still alive or dead.

"The latest police figure is 144 confirmed deaths of former Esidimeni patients. A higher priority is needed to find all the missing patients, many of whom may already have died in terrible circumstances."

Bloom on Friday in a statement said the Gauteng Health Department had asked mental health NGOs to check if it was caring for any of the persons on a list of missing Life Esidimeni patients. 

He said the full names of 55 patients are listed, with ID numbers in most cases, but not all.

In three cases only a first name is known, and in one, only a surname, Bloom alleged.

'They could all be dead'

"There is no name at all for three of the missing patients - all that is known about them is that two are female and one is male, and their dates of birth are given," he said.

"I doubt that many of them will be traced, and they could all be dead as they would not be able to survive without decent care. This means that the true Esidimeni death toll could be more than 200 patients."

Psychiatric patients from Life Esidimeni were transferred to various ill-equipped NGOs across the province after the health department terminated its contract with the facility.

This resulted in the deaths of more than 143 patients due to dehydration and malnutrition, among other reasons listed by Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba.

Last week, former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu told the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearing that she was not a "prophet", and therefore, could not have anticipated the deaths of the psychiatric patients.

"It was not intentional. If I had foresight like a prophet, maybe I would have seen, but I am not a prophet. I do not even know what will happen tomorrow," she said on Thursday.

The hearing continues on Tuesday.

Read more on:    life esidimeni  |  da  |  johannesburg  |  health

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