SAHRC failed to act on Esidimeni patient transfer complaints - DA

2017-02-07 17:02
Jack Bloom (DA, file)

Jack Bloom (DA, file)

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Johannesburg - The lives of some of the mentality ill patients who were moved from Life Esidimeni could have been saved if the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) had acted on a complaint laid in 2016, Democratic Alliance MPL Jack Bloom said on Tuesday.  

According to Bloom, Annie Robb of the Ubuntu Centre - an organisation for people with psychosocial disabilities - wrote to commissioner Bokankatla Malatji on March 15 2016, alerting him to the patient transfers.

Bloom said Robb had requested that "immediate urgent attention" be given to the plight of the patients being moved from Life Esidimeni, however this was ignored.  

He said Robb received a call on August 24 from the commission's legal officer saying they would assign a case number to her complaint.

Bloom said in September 2016 a second complaint followed about the Precious Angels NGO in Pretoria which the SAHRC visited and found abandoned.  

"But this was only after [former health MEC Qedani Mahlangu] had disclosed 36 deaths and the Health Ombudsman had been appointed to investigate," said Bloom.

The SAHRC said it would comment at a later stage.

Bloom said in October 2016 the executive director of the Harvard Law School Project on Disability, Professor Michael Stein, wrote an email to Robb which read: "The SAHRC was put on advance notice by you and your group in March and even by me in person in March 2016, about the deadly and inevitable results that would happen if they stood by and did not act, and yet they chose to do nothing."

READ: Health dept in talks with Esidimeni families

Deaths from hydration, diarrhoea

Bloom said it was hugely disappointing that the SAHRC failed to act in order to save lives of the mentally ill patients.

He said the commission should be held accountable for its "inexcusable inaction" before Parliament's portfolio committee on justice and correctional services.

Last Wednesday Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba said his investigation had found that as many as 94 patients had died. The number could be higher.

He found the decision to move about 2 000 mentally ill patients from Life Esidimeni to 27 unlicensed NGOs was rushed, chaotic and unwise. The department decided on the move to cut costs. It had funded the Esidimeni facility.

Makgoba implicated Mahlangu and two senior officials directly and called on Gauteng Premier David Makhura to consider Mahlangu's suitability as an MEC and to institute disciplinary action.

He found that Mahlangu had told reporters and the Gauteng legislature that 36 patients had died when the correct number was 77 at the time.

Makgoba said only one of the deaths was due to problems related to mental illness. The rest died of dehydration, diarrhoea, and other "natural causes" which needed further investigation.

Shortly after the report's findings were made public Makhura told reporters that Mahlangu had resigned.

Makhura vowed to take action against all other implicated officials.

Read more on:    da  |  sahrc

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