Life Esidimeni: NGO owner lacked knowledge to care for patients

2017-10-30 20:04
The committee representing the families in the the Life Esidimeni scandal. (Ihsaan Haffejee)

The committee representing the families in the the Life Esidimeni scandal. (Ihsaan Haffejee)

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Johannesburg – The owner of Anchor Home, one of the NGOs where Life Esidimeni patients were transferred to, admitted she lacked the knowledge and experience to care for mentally ill patients.

Dorothy Franks, the CEO of Anchor Home, told the arbitration hearings on Monday that she took in more than 70 mentally ill adult patients, despite her license specifying that she could only care for patients under the age of 18.

"According to me, I had to look after patients 18 and over," she said. "[Officials from the Gauteng department of health] brought the licenses… I didn’t take note of that… I don’t know if they maybe made mistakes on the license."

During her testimony, Franks said her institution was paid R3490 per patient per month from the department, while she got grants of about R1500 for 29 patients.

Franks told the arbitration hearings that she was still withdrawing the Sassa grants until March this year and was still receiving payment from the department until February, despite the closure of the institution in 2016.

No prior experience

This, she said, was to pay for her staff and the leasing of the premises, despite having no lease agreement in place.

She said she "had to take instructions" from officials at the Gauteng department of health, including the suspended director of the mental health review board Dr Makgabo Manamela and former Gauteng MEC for health Qedani Mahlangu.

Franks admitted to the arbitration hearings, now in its fourth week, that she had no prior experience or qualifications to look after mentally ill patients.

ALSO READ: I violated my duties 'by ignorance' - suspended official at Life Esidimeni hearing

Arbitration chair former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke said: "You can either learn something by qualification, or you can learn something by experience. You had neither."

Moseneke pushed her for a reason on why she agreed to take in patients, despite her lack of experience and qualifications.

"I was looking after these patients because I really cared for them," Franks said.

Moseneke responded, by pointing out that Anchor Home had taken in more patients than its capacity would allow.

"You really cared for them? That’s why you squeezed 30 patients into a ward for 25?" he asked.

‘I tried my utmost best’

Franks’ organisation was leasing two wards on the same premises as the Cullinan Care and Rehabilitation Centre, where 40 patients were crammed into a ward with a capacity of 30, and 30 patients into another ward with a capacity of 25 people.

Franks admitted that patients in her care arrived without their files, medical records and ID books, with only discharge forms and a brief medical report.

READ: 'Police struggled to get information from health depts'

During cross-examination, Franks told the hearings that Anchor Home only had two baths, six showers, and six toilets, despite taking care of more than 70 patients.

She told the hearings that when patients started dying, she failed to contact the department of health to ask for help.

"I didn’t phone the MEC. I just made a note [for myself] that they must come and help me," Franks said.

At the end of her testimony, Franks told the hearings she believed she didn’t do anything wrong.

"I just want to ask their forgiveness if I did anything wrong… from my point of view, I tried my utmost best," she said.

The hearings resume on November 8.

Read more on:    life esidimeni  |  dikgang moseneke  |  health

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