Life Esidimeni: 'There wasn't any process followed', former health official tells inquest

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Hannah Jacobus.
Hannah Jacobus.
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  • The Life Esidimeni inquest resumed on Monday, its aim is to find out if anyone can be held criminally liable for the 144 mental health patients who were transferred to NGOs.
  • The sixth witness, Hannah Jacobus, says proper processes were not followed in the project.  
  • She says the time frame was too short to move patients from Life Esidimeni to the NGOs. 

Hannah Jacobus, who was in charge of checking NGOs' readiness to receive mental healthcare patients, has admitted that the process was rushed. 

Jacobus is the sixth witness in the life Esidimeni inquest sitting virtually in the Pretoria High Court. The inquest resumed on Monday after rising on 2 December. Its aim is to determine if anyone can be held criminally liable after 144 mental healthcare users died after being moved from Life Esidimeni facilities to NGOs.  

Jacobus, who is now retired, told the court: "The process was rushed. All my colleagues voiced to Dr [Makgabo] Manamela that the time frame was not enough. She told us that she was being instructed to do this task. Unusual circumstances were her words."

READ | Gauteng govt to foot legal bill for current, former officials at Life Esidimeni inquest

She said the team was informed by Manamela, the former head of mental health at the Gauteng health department, in December 2015 that patients would be moved from Life Esidimeni to NGOs in March 2016.  

"The time frame wasn't sufficient. We needed more time."

Ready

Jacobus said usually, getting NGOs to be ready and compliant took at least three months. 

She said usually the department would compile a pre-inspection report that stated the knowledge of the NGO team, the type of community it was situated in, and what services are available.

Another formal inspection by the mental health team that included social workers, infection control officers, and other professionals would be conducted, Jacobus said.

"There weren't any processes followed," she stressed.

She added that during this project, the team didn't do proper inspections of the NGOs to which the patients were transferred.

"We didn't do inspections. We just looked at them. [We inspected] by looking at the building itself - the bed space, the kitchen area, the rehabilitation area. We drafted a short report of our findings."


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