8 missing Esidimeni patients found, but families ‘need to know what happened’

Social Development MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza comforting bereaved family member Christine Nxumalo during the Life Esidimeni healing ceremony at Freedom Park in Tshwane. Picture: Morapedi Mashashe
Social Development MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza comforting bereaved family member Christine Nxumalo during the Life Esidimeni healing ceremony at Freedom Park in Tshwane. Picture: Morapedi Mashashe

Thirteen of the missing 62 Life Esidimeni patients have now been located, but the families of many of the patients who were transferred from the facility to non-governmental organisations still have many questions – even after the arbitration hearings into the tragedy.

The Democratic Alliance's shadow health MEC in Gauteng, Jack Bloom, confirmed today that 13 patients had been tracked down. On January 29, Bloom opened missing person cases at a Johannesburg police station for the unaccounted Life Esidimeni patients. Bloom was met with contestation by local government however, when provincial government spokesperson Thabo Masebe said that they were actually aware of the patients’ whereabouts.

During the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings, Provincial Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa confirmed that four of the missing patients were found – three of whom were residents at Masego Home in Krugersdorp.

Health ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba had recommended that Masego Home should be closed down following the deaths of multiple patients.

This week, Bloom was informed by the police that eight more patients were located – four at the Thuli Home Centre in Orange Farm and two at the San Michele Mental Institution in KwaThema, on the East Rand.

“One patient was taken to an unknown institution according to his nephew, and another was moved by her mother, who refuses to say where she is but confirms she is still alive,” Bloom said.

In the health ombudsman report into the death of 144 mentally ill patients who were transferred from the Life Esidimeni facility, one death was reported at Thuli Home Centre.

“Alfred Sibiya was transferred from Life Esidimeni to Thuli Home. His date of death was July 27 2016. Home affairs had been informed that the date of death was July 15 2016. This all happened without the knowledge of the relatives. All these are supported by signed affidavits,” the report said.

San Michele was recognised in the report as one of the best non-governmental organisations for a number of factors including that the employees were paid salaries and that it had solid infrastructure and adequate facilities.

“The best non-governmental organisations that were visited had solid infrastructure and adequate facilities. San Michele illustrated this point very well; it was formerly a high school on a site area of 40 000 square metres with ample accommodation and usable space, although they were still in need of 30 beds,” the report said.

Last year, San Michele took the Gauteng health department to court after being owed more than R2 million in subsidies for taking in rescued patients from ill-resourced organisations during the transfer of Life Esidimeni patients.

Administrator of San Michele, Marius Bosman, told City Press that the patients who were discovered to have been Life Esidimeni patients were transferred to the home from another organisation, and that during that process, the patient’s records may have been lost.

“We are still trying to verify what exactly happened, but this is something that we are investigating ... We have more than 200 patients here on a daily basis, so we are looking into it,” Bosman said.

Bosman added that he would be releasing a statement later today after fully clarifying exactly what happened with the Life Esidimeni patients who have been cared for at San Michele.

On Saturday, a healing ceremony was held for the families of victims of Life Esidimeni in Pretoria, where health minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said that officials who were implicated in the tragedy should be held accountable.

“People don’t just die and it ends there. We need to know what happened and how did people die,” Motsoaledi said.

Avantika Seeth
Multimedia journalist
City Press
p:+27 11 713 9001
w:www.citypress.co.za  e: avantika.seeth@citypress.co.za
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