At least 5 Life Esidimeni missing patients traced, 16 still unaccounted for

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Gwen Ramokgopa. (Christopher Moagi, Netwerk24)
Gwen Ramokgopa. (Christopher Moagi, Netwerk24)

At least five Life Esidimeni patients have been located, while 16 others are still unaccounted for.

This was announced by Gauteng Health MEC Dr Gwen Ramokgopa on Sunday.   

The five were among 21 patients who were discharged from Life Esidimeni facilities in 2015 and 2016. The department had struggled to locate the patients due to "poor record keeping".

"I am encouraged by the progress Dr Kobie Marais and her team are making, and reaffirm our determination to continue working relentlessly to leave no stone unturned... doing all in our power and sparing no effort until each one of the outstanding unaccounted for on the list is traced," Ramokgopa said in a statement.

According to the Gauteng Health Department's own records, there were 55 mental healthcare patients who were unaccounted for in January 2018, but the number was reduced to 16 by February 2019 following joint efforts between various stakeholders.

A total of 144 psychiatric patients died after the department transferred them from Life Esidimeni facilities to unlicenced NGOs.

READ: Ramokgopa appeals for help to find 21 missing Life Esidimeni patients

Ramokgopa said she had personally visited some of the patients who were missing and their families.

She said that some were not aware of discrepancies in their names, addresses or of a lack of identity numbers on the records of Life Esidimeni given to the health department.

She said most of the recently located missing patients were at new addresses where they had moved with their families while others were re-admitted to specialised mental health facilities. 

"I remain optimistic that our task of accounting for all clients will be concluded soonest as we follow up with the SAPS and use any other records," Ramokgopa said.

The  department  has called on all families and guardians to update contacts with the relevant institutions when such change occurs.

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