It was a process of saving lives - acting health HOD on Esidimeni tragedy

2017-10-13 19:26
The healing session for the families of the Life Esidimeni patients who died last year (Mpho Raborife, News24)

The healing session for the families of the Life Esidimeni patients who died last year (Mpho Raborife, News24)

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Johannesburg – The acting head of the Gauteng health department said his main aim was damage control and saving lives after his appointment to the position following the health ombudsman's report into the deaths of former Life Esidimeni patients.

Dr Ernest Kenoshi, who took over the position in early February, said "it wasn't easy getting into the department," in February.

"Suddenly you are dealing with lots of patients. We had to take food from hospitals to the NGOs to feed the patients. Some of them hadn't been bathed even," he said.

"It was a process of saving lives. As a department, it was mainly about stabilising the situation. That was our main intention: to save lives and stabilise the situation," Kenoshi said after being asked about disciplinary and legal steps taken against some of the officials implicated by the health ombudsman's report.

Kenoshi said when he took over the role one of his first tasks was to compile figures on the patients who had died.

"Just compiling those figures, it was not easy," he said.


Earlier, he told the alternative dispute resolution hearing into the deaths of the Life Esidimeni patients that the number of dead had risen from the initial 118 to 141 as at the end of September.

During cross-examination, Kenoshi was asked whether the revised number of 141 dead could be higher, but he was unable to provide a definitive answer.

"It could be," he said.

READ: Life Esidimeni death toll now sits at 141

Prior to that, Advocate Adila Hassim questioned him about the discrepancies between the number of dockets which had been opened by the police, the number of enquiries and the number of post-mortems which had been conducted.

Hassim was representing 55 families whose relatives had died following the transfer of patients to unlicensed NGOs which has been described as reckless.

Kenoshi said the department was assisting the police in their investigation, but the department was not able to obtain records from some of the NGOs following the closure of some of the facilities after the tragedy.

He told Hassim that the responsibility for ensuring that the officials implicated were sanctioned and that the recommendations by the health ombudsman were carried out fell upon himself, the MEC and the premier.

"The problem with collective responsibility is that no one takes responsibility," said Hassim.

The hearings continue on Monday.

Read more on:    life esidimeni  |  johannesburg  |  healh

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