I am deeply sorry: Mahlangu

For­mer Gaut­eng MEC Qedani Mahlangu apol­ogy re­jected by fam­i­lies

African Times - - Front Page - RUS­SEL MOLEFE

FOR­MER Gaut­eng MEC for Health Qedani Mahlangu has apol­o­gised to the fam­i­lies of men­tally ill pa­tients who died be­cause of be­ing from Life Esidi­meni to ill-equipped NGO’s.

Tes­ti­fy­ing at the Life Esidi­meni ar­bi­tra­tion hear­ings on Mon­day, Mahlangu of­fered an olive branch to the fam­i­lies but her apol­ogy was met by howls.

“I know that we may not bring them back but for what is worth I am re­ally re­ally sorry. I am deeply sorry for your loss.

“And May their souls rest in peace,” she told the hear­ing.

At least 143 men­tally ill pa­tients died when the Gaut­eng Depart­ment of Health, un­der Mahlangu’s lead­er­ship, de­cided to move them from Life Esidi­meni fa­cil­i­ties into un­li­censed and ill-equipped NGOs.

She told the hear­ing that she did not know that there were chal­lenges with the project of mov­ing pa­tients. Mahlangu added that no one had an­tic­i­pated that the pa­tients would die once they were moved to the NGO’s.

“I don’t think any­body planned that peo­ple are go­ing to die or be killed,” she said.

Mahlangu fur­ther re­fused to shoul­der the blame for what hap­pened. She said it would be mis­lead­ing the na­tion to say that she had ter­mi­nated the con­tract with Life Esidi­meni and put the Gaut­eng Men­tal Health Marathon Project into ac­tion. She said the blame should go to the en­tire unit re­spon­si­ble for the move.

“The de­ci­sion to ter­mi­nate was not an in­di­vid­ual de­ci­sion,” she said.

De­spite that, Mahlangu added that her se­nior team gave her half-baked truths and were not forth­com­ing with the real sit­u­a­tion of the move.

“Dur­ing the ini­tial phase of the project, I was given as­sur­ance that the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the project [was go­ing well ex­cept for] a few teething prob­lems. Prob­lems such as food, li­nen and other prob­lems were not pre­sented to the meet­ing ex­cept the is­sue of lack of sup­ply of med­i­ca­tion. I didn’t have any rea­son not to be­lieve the in­for­ma­tion re­ceived con­sis­tently. You work with peo­ple on the ba­sis of trust. Not do­ing so will not al­low for a col­le­gial work­ing re­la­tion­ship. I had the full con­fi­dence in the man­agers and pro­fes­sional ex­per­tise,”Mahlangu said.

She was asked to pro­vide the names of the in­di­vid­u­als who were sup­ply­ing her with in­ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion.

“HOD Dr Bar­ney Sele­bano, Dr Le­bethe, who is the DDG of clin­i­cal ser­vices, Mr Mosenogi, who is the chief di­rec­tor for plan­ning, Dr Manamela [the] men­tal di­rec­tor,” she said.

Sele­bano and Manamela have since re­signed from their po­si­tions.

Mahlangu told the hear­ing that she be­came aware of the chal­lenges in July 2016 when a jour­nal­ist kept ask­ing her ques­tion re­gard­ing the project. She said the first key chal­lenge to be brought to her was a short­age of food at an NGO in Cul­li­nan, it was 3rd of July 2016 late in the evening.

“I got con­cerned that this jour­nal­ist kept ask­ing me things, and I re­alised that what­ever I was an­swer­ing I might not have the full in­for­ma­tion. The me­dia per­son in­formed me of the prob­lems, and we spoke to the HOD. I only found af­ter­wards there were prob­lems with pay­ments.

“The is­sue of food and other chal­lenges I also got to know about them in the me­dia, and we in­ter­vened. The is­sues were brought to Dr Manamela, and I was not aware of them at all. I en­cour­aged peo­ple to call me,” said Mahlangu.

She was quizzed by Judge Dik­gang Moseneke on how

143 pa­tients lost their lives in cir­cum­stances she seemed un­aware of in a depart­ment she headed. She said dur­ing the time, she was to­tally un­aware of pa­tients that were dy­ing.

“I re­ceived a ques­tion from the leg­is­la­ture. In less than 24 hours, I asked Prof Mak­goba to help the depart­ment in­ves­ti­gate the cir­cum­stances un­der which the 36 peo­ple died. I also had a meet­ing with Min­is­ter Aaron Mot­soaledi about the Nel­son Man­dela Chil­dren Hospi­tal, and I told him that the om­buds­man was not pre­pared to help me.”

She said once she dis­cov­ered more pa­tients had died, she also found that the level of trust had “de­gen­er­ated” and there were prob­lems in the team.

The marathon project in­volved mov­ing psy­chi­atric pa­tients from Life Esidi­meni to var­i­ous ill-equipped NGOs across the prov­ince af­ter the health depart­ment ter­mi­nated its con­tract with the fa­cil­ity.

This re­sulted in the death of more than 140 pa­tients due to de­hy­dra­tion and mal­nu­tri­tion, among other rea­sons listed by Health Om­buds­man Male­ga­puru Mak­goba.

Mahlangu said the loss of life was re­gret­table as the health­care sys­tem was sup­posed to pro­long hu­man life.

“The death is painful and re­gret­table, and I want to ex­press my sin­cere con­do­lences fol­low­ing the ter­mi­na­tion, in­clud­ing the re­moval of men­tal health pa­tients from Life Esidi­meni life health­care fa­cil­i­ties,” she said.

For­mer Gaut­eng MEC Qedani Mahlangu

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