Johannesburg – The sister of a Life Esidimeni patient suffered a second blow when her niece died after collapsing on the day the hearings started.
Christine Nxumalo, whose sister Virginia Machpelah died after she was moved from Life Esidimeni to Precious Angels, told the arbitration hearings on Monday that Machpelah's daughter, Shaniece, had died two weeks ago.
Shaniece, 21, had been living with Nxumalo, after her mother died in 2016.
"Virginia had a daughter who had been living with me and, just this past weekend, we had to bury her," she said. "She wasn’t sick. On the first day of arbitration, she collapsed."
She said she was angered by officials testifying at the hearing who evaded taking accountability.
"It's been a very long road, painful. Our understanding was, when we started the arbitration process, we'll get answers... and we haven't gotten any answers and that makes me angry," Nxumalo said.
"How is this process helping me right now? It’s not," she said.
Nxumalo told the hearing that the family had been unable to track down her sister after she was transferred from Life Esidimeni to Precious Angels.
She said, in June 2016, she received an SMS on the day her sister was moved, informing her that she would be going to the Cullinan Care and Rehabilitation Centre (CCRC).
'She needs to tell us what happened'
"I called several times and every time they said she’s not there. It took about two and a half weeks to get any sort of answer," Nxumalo said, adding she was referred to Siyabadinga and Anchor – two other facilities on the same premises as CCRC.
She still wasn't able to track down her sister, and on August 25 last year she got a call from Ethel Ncube, the owner of Precious Angels, informing Nxumalo that her sister had passed away.
After finally tracking down her sister, Nxumalo discovered that she had in fact died on August 15, according to the paramedic report and the death certificate.
"People like Ethel Ncube need to stop telling us what she thinks we want to hear, she needs to tell us what happened," she said.
Last week, Ncube told the hearings that she had done her "level best", and objected to health ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba's report that her facility had failed to look after patients, and that they had died of hunger and cold.
Nxumalo said she wanted to see former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu testify at the arbitration hearings, to provide answers for the families.