No re­sources or plan for Esidi­meni


THE ar­bi­tra­tion hear­ing into the Life HealthCen­tre Esidi­meni tragedy has heard how the health de­part­ment had no proper plan and not enough re­sources to en­sure the safety and wel­fare of men­tal pa­tients dur­ing the re­lo­ca­tion.

The pa­tients’ sit­u­a­tion was also wors­ened when the NGOs they were trans­ferred to did not re­ceive grants from the state.

The Gaut­eng health de­part­ment’s chief direc­tor of plan­ning, Levy Mosenogi, who was in charge of the Esidi­meni pro­ject, could not sup­ply an­swers to ques­tions posed to him by Le­gal Aid’s ad­vo­cate Lilla Crouse and the chair­man of the hear­ing, re­tired Jus­tice Dik­gang Moseneke.

“Five hun­dred of them had no iden­tity doc­u­ments. Nonethe­less the con­tract was ter­mi­nated and peo­ple were moved. Pa­tients were sent with­out grants; you told us yes­ter­day that you de­layed for three to four months to pay NGOs… it was ir­re­spon­si­ble to do so be­cause that placed the pa­tients’ lives in dan­ger. Why did this hap­pen? Why did you not pre­vent that from hap­pen­ing?” Jus­tice Moseneke asked.

“I was not aware that had hap­pened, that they were moved with­out IDs, but we had other fa­cil­i­ties to move them to such as Weskop­pies and Cul­li­nan.”

As a leader of the pro­ject, he should have checked to make sure ev­ery­thing was ar­ranged, he said.

Health Om­buds­man Male­ga­puru Mak­goba’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the pa­tients’ death found that in­ad­e­quate ve­hi­cles such as open bakkies were used to trans­fer pa­tients from Esidi­meni.

Some of the chronic pa­tients were tied to the ve­hi­cles dur­ing the trans­porta­tion.

Jus­tice Moseneke asked Mosenogi if he man­aged to find out the com­mon cause of the deaths.

“Some had di­a­betes, high blood pres­sure and other chronic dis­eases. They needed to be looked after; it was win­ter and they needed clothes. All these fac­tors con­trib­uted to the con­di­tion. They needed to be looked after by qual­i­fied peo­ple be­cause they were in a new en­vi­ron­ment, but we did not pro­vide for that,” said Mosenogi.

“We should have done bet­ter. I should have been much stronger, maybe I should have pulled out after see­ing the chil­dren’s vul­ner­a­ble po­si­tion. I re­gret it all, I re­gret that peo­ple died.”

Jus­tice Moseneke asked: “Why did the de­part­ment go ahead with the trans­fers in the face of all that? Why did the head of de­part­ment, MEC do it? Maybe you can­not an­swer for them but why did you as pro­ject man­ager do it? You were warned by spe­cial­ists, lawyers, fam­i­lies. Why?

“Go­ing fur­ther, the om­buds­man came here and told us he was sad­dened by the fact that state of­fi­cials, who are paid to do their jobs, were vis­i­bly scared of the peo­ple they re­ported to. Were you scared?”

“I was not scared but it was the con­di­tions we worked un­der. I will raise this in my clos­ing state­ment that maybe the De­part­ment of Health must be run by peo­ple who know about health. It would have been far bet­ter. Through­out the years in the de­part­ment, I could reach out to any­one, but it was dif­fi­cult to reach the MEC; maybe she was in­formed dif­fer­ently.”

Mak­goba’s damn­ing re­port in Fe­bru­ary, found that as many as 94 men­tally ill pa­tients who were trans­ferred from Esidi­meni to un­li­censed care cen­tres died of causes that in­cluded ne­glect and star­va­tion. The death toll fig­ure rose to 118 as more in­for­ma­tion was dis­cov­ered by Mak­goba.

Crouse asked Mosenogi if there has been any dis­ci­plinary pro­cesses against him.

He replied “no”. – ANA


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