Life Esidimeni: Gauteng officials were under political pressure to move patients, inquest hears

accreditation
0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
(File)
(File)
  • Gauteng health officials were under political pressure to move patients from Life Esidimeni to NGOs. 
  • Life Esidimeni never received a detailed plan from the health department on how moves would be done. 
  • Before the decision to move patients from Life Esidimeni,  the health department was happy about quality of care offered. 

Managers in the Gauteng health department were frustrated by the political pressure to move patients from Life Esidimeni, the inquest heard on Tuesday.

This was according to former Life Esidimeni MD Dr Morgan Mkhatshwa. Mkhatshwa was giving testimony in the Life Esidimeni inquest - which aims to see whether anyone can be held criminally liable for the death of 144 mental health patients. 

The patients were moved from Life Esidimeni facilities to ill-equipped NGOs five years ago. 

Mkhatshwa told the Pretoria High Court on Tuesday that officials in conversation expressed unhappiness about the moves. 

"The head of department is an accounting officer for the department. Above the head of department is a political deployee which is the MEC. From my interaction with... [former director of mental health in the Gauteng health department] Dr [Makgabo] Manamela and her team, there was an expression of frustration with the political head unwilling to consider the timeframes given for the transfers."

READ | Gauteng health dept officials warned moving patients was a death trap, inquest hears

At the time of the transfers, the Health MEC in the province was Qedani Mahlangu.

On Monday, Mahlangu's legal representatives said she followed advice from medical experts in the department and the final decision to move patients was ordered by Gauteng Premier David Makhura. 

Mkhatshwa said before the decision to terminate the contract,  the health department never complained about the care patients received from Life Esidimeni. The department conducted at least one surprise inspection a year at Life Esidimeni facilities, Mkhatshwa said. 

"We never had any issues. There was no complaint about the quality of service that Esidimeni provided." 

He said patients were moved haphazardly from Life Esidimeni to the NGOs.

At Life Esidimeni, there was a family set up. There was a connection between the [patients] and staff. When you are being detached from your familiar settings, you would be worried. They [patients] were friends, and when they got separated, it devastated them.

He said the health department never offered them a detailed plan on the moves, despite asking for it. 

"We never had a detailed plan on what would happen. The nuts and bolts of the transfers, we never got sight of that."

Mkhatshwa's cross-examination was expected to continue on Wednesday.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
Facebook is facing a fresh crisis after a former employee turned whistle-blower leaked internal company research. Do you still use Facebook?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes, the benefits outweigh the risk for me
32% - 2183 votes
No, I have deleted it
38% - 2598 votes
Yes, but I am considering deleting it
30% - 2084 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
14.75
-1.0%
Rand - Pound
20.25
-0.7%
Rand - Euro
17.10
-0.9%
Rand - Aus dollar
10.91
-0.6%
Rand - Yen
0.13
-0.8%
Gold
1,762.57
-0.3%
Silver
23.23
-0.4%
Palladium
2,023.50
-2.5%
Platinum
1,047.00
-1.1%
Brent Crude
84.86
+1.0%
Top 40
60,457
-0.1%
All Share
67,039
+0.0%
Resource 10
64,554
+0.3%
Industrial 25
84,254
-0.7%
Financial 15
14,076
+0.8%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE