Life Esidimeni accuses Gauteng health dept of flouting procedures when moving patients

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Life Esidimeni Centre.
Life Esidimeni Centre.
Lynn Ruiters
  • Life Esidimeni has accused the Gauteng health department of moving mental health patients to NGOs without following proper procedures. 
  • It said moving patients was supposed to be done on an individual basis and not as a group. 
  • The former managing director of Life Esidimeni, Dr Morgan Mkhatshwa, said before moving a patient, they would assess an NGO first.

The Gauteng health department has been accused of not following proper procedures when it moved mental healthcare patients from Life Esidimeni to NGOs.

Speaking at the Life Esidimeni inquest on Wednesday, the former managing director of Life Esidimeni, Dr Morgan Mkhatshwa, said the normal procedure was, before moving a patient, they would assess the NGO first.  

Judge Mmonoa Teffo is heading the inquest in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.

It was set up to determine if anyone can be held criminally liable for the deaths of 140 mental health patients who were moved from Life Esidimeni to NGOs.  

Mkhatshwa said before a patient was moved, they first had to ensure an NGO matched its needs.  

READ | Life Esidimeni accused of price gouging

Once that was done, they would be moved there on a trial basis on weekends with the help of a social worker, he added.  

"We would send them on a weekend trial and see if they adjust to the environment. The social worker would follow up to understand what resources the facility had. Once the family and the NGO are happy to receive the mental user, they would be discharged to that particular NGO."

Mkhatshwa said moving patients was done on an individual basis, while for this project, the department would send a list of patients to be moved a day before their scheduled move. 

He added it was important for patients to first be moved on a trial basis to be comfortable with their new environment. 

He said:

It is important for the mental healthcare user to move to an environment they are familiar with; that they have established relationships with certain individuals in that environment. Otherwise, they suffer from an adjustment syndrome where they can't adjust to that environment.

In the moves involving the department, Mkhatshwa said a delivery van arrived at its facilities to pick up 10 patients on one occasion.  

He added while Life Esidimeni ensured all patients were moved with medical records, it was not an easy feat, he added.  

Prepare

"The medical records were so large that with the given timeframes … it was impractical to do copies and prepare the mental care users. We advised the department to come with resources and do copies. 

READ | Gauteng health dept was worried about conditions at Life Esidimeni, inquest hears

"I have … indicated that we had a request to do a file for one mental healthcare user that took about 10 terabytes to scan the copies. I didn't have the resources to deploy resources for that role."

Mkhatshwa said despite his pleas, the department did not send resources to print patient files. 

He earlier told the inquest he left his position at Life Esidimeni because politicians did not listen to clinicians' advice on treating patients.  

The inquest continues.

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