Johannesburg – A woman whose husband died after he was transferred from Life Esidimeni to one of the unlicensed NGOs on Friday said his death had robbed her of a chance to grow old with him.
"I just want to tell the state that for you, they [the patients] were just a number, but they were our loved ones," said Maria Colitz, whose husband Frederick passed away a few months after he was transferred to Mosego Home.
According to the health ombudsman’s report, Mosego Home, which was unlicensed, was one of the worst NGOs patients could be sent to.
The health ombudsman found that Mosego Home had space limitations, the fencing did not provide adequate security, and there was no food and clothes.
The report also said that "some complained of 'rotten bread, [a] meal of cabbage and porridge and [being given] only one meal a day'".
Colitz told the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings that her husband of 39 years lost a lot of weight when he was transferred to Mosego Home.
"The last three months, I kept asking: Why does he look like this, why is he losing weight, is he eating?" Colitz told the hearing through a translator.
She was assured that her husband was taken care of.
She recalled visiting him one Friday afternoon, insisting that her husband wasn’t well, asking the staff to have him admitted to hospital, but was instead told the nurse would only be back on the Monday.
Colitz said after visiting him that day, she again phoned the NGO asking for her husband to be taken to hospital, but was told he was sleeping peacefully.
The following Monday, her son phoned, only to be informed that Frederick passed away on the Friday.
"The Monday, just after 09:00, my son phoned… he spoke to the nurse who told him 'do you not know that he died'," Colitz said.
She said the nurse then hung up the phone and when her son phoned back he was told she was also sad about the passing of Frederick.
"My son said: 'How can you cry over the death of my father when you didn’t even look after him?'" she said.
Colitz said: "[The state] took a piece of gold from my heart. I was looking forward to growing old with him. He definitely didn’t die because of old age."
Colitz was followed by Anna Sindile Masombuka, whose daughter Masweet Kozwale passed away after she was transferred to Takalani in Soweto.
Masombuka said her daughter was in a good condition while she was still at Life Esidimeni, but after she was transferred to Takalani her condition quickly deteriorated.
"When she was transferred to Takalani, she couldn’t talk. But when I went to visit the one time, I could see from her face she was still happy to see me," Masombuka said through a translator.
Masombuka said her daughter's death deeply impacted her as she had already lost a child.
"We were very hurt. I don’t have words to explain how I felt," she said.
The hearings continue on Monday.