Life Esidimeni: Staff quit, patients lacked food, medicine as NGO went unpaid for months

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Dr Makgabo Manamela at the Life Esidimeni hearings.  Photo by Gallo Images
Dr Makgabo Manamela at the Life Esidimeni hearings. Photo by Gallo Images
  • The Life Esidimeni hearing has resumed, and the former head of mental health in Gauteng, Dr Makgabo Manamela, is still under cross-examination.
  • It was revealed Manamela signed the licence for one NGO without having a service-level agreement in place.
  • As a result, the NGO was not paid for four months, and the mental health patients did not have enough food, clothes, and medication.

The former head of mental health in Gauteng signed a licence for an NGO where mental health patients would be transferred, although there was no service agreement in place to ensure the NGO got funds from the health department.

As a result, Tshepong Centre did not receive a cent for four months, despite having almost 200 mental health patients in its care.

Due to the lack of funds, some staff members quit, leaving the centre short-staffed.

There was also a shortage of medication, food and blankets for mental health patients.

The department had to ask outsiders for help, one of those being Weskoppies, which was close by and asked to help share its medication with mental health patients at Tshepong.

This was revealed on Monday during the Life Esidimeni inquiry, which aims to determine whether anyone can be held criminally liable for the deaths of at least 140 mental health patients who died at NGOs after being transferred there.

Dr Makgabo Manamela, who has been on the stand since October last year, conceded during cross-examination from Section27 advocate Adila Hassim she did not remember asking for the service level agreement when she signed the licence for Tshepong.

READ | Life Esidimeni: Gauteng health department failed us, say NGOs

Hassim is representing 63 families of the 140 victims.

Asked by Hassim whether, as the head of the mental health directorate in Gauteng, she did not see the importance of ensuring service level agreements were in place before signing the licence, Manamela said that was not how the department's procedure worked.

Manamela said the district handled the audit of the NGOs as well as service-level agreements.

She had earlier explained the service level agreements were the responsibility of the district office.

"If the district brings a licence, I have no reason to say I won't sign and that I should rather first go and see all those over a 1 000 NGOs and check whether they are designated for the people they're supposed to accommodate.

"With due respect, you don't work at the health [department].

"Those documents are dealt with at the district level. When they are done, they are sent to me."

However, Judge Mmonoa Teffo chastised Manamela and told her to be mindful of how she responded to questions, and she must respect everyone.

"Calm down; we just want evidence here. You can't say someone does not work at [the department of] health."

Manamela then apologised.

READ | Life Esidimeni: Former Gauteng health HOD tells inquest about role of senior politicians

Hassim then showed Manamela while she signed the licence for Tshepong on 1 April 2016 for 170 patients, the service-level agreement was only signed on the 16th.

Manamela then conceded due to not having the service-level agreement in place, Tshepong was not paid.

She said when she visited Tshepong to see the situation for herself, they asked a food company to help the NGO, Weskoppies to help with medication and "Smith" to help with clothes while waiting for the payment.

Manamela added the lack of those basics affected the mental patients adversely; hence they approached those three institutions to help alleviate the situation at Tshepong until the department paid.

The hearing continues.

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