Fam­i­lies get un­re­served apol­ogy

The Mercury - - NEWS - Ma­su­tane Mod­jadji

DAY FOUR of the Life Esidi­meni ar­bi­tra­tion hear­ings has seen an un­re­served apol­ogy, and a call for for­mer health MEC Qedani Mahlangu to an­swer for her de­ci­sion to trans­fer more than 1 700 men­tally ill pa­tients into un­suit­able fa­cil­i­ties, re­sult­ing in at least 118 deaths.

This was the ev­i­dence of the na­tional Health Depart­ment’s Di­rec­tor-Gen­eral Pre­cious Mat­soso, who con­tin­ued giv­ing tes­ti­mony at the hear­ings aimed at giv­ing an­swers and clo­sure to the fam­i­lies of those who died.

Mat­soso spent the bet­ter part of yes­ter­day morn­ing giv­ing the de­tailed steps taken by the depart­ment in line with the rec­om­men­da­tions by Health Om­buds­man Pro­fes­sor Male­ga­puru Mak­goba’s in­quiry.

Mat­soso told the ar­bi­tra­tion, headed by re­tired Deputy Chief Jus­tice Dik­gang Moseneke, that be­fore the om­buds­man’s re­port was re­leased, a min­is­te­rial task team had vis­ited most of the NGOs that re­ceived the pa­tients and rec­om­mended that some of them be closed down.

She also told the hear­ing that of­fi­cials had met with the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies and of­fered an un­re­served apol­ogy. The trans­fers had taken place on the in­struc­tion of Mahlangu, who had de­cided to ter­mi­nate the provin­cial Health Depart­ment’s con­tract with Life Esidi­meni and have more than 1 700 men­tally ill pa­tients ei­ther sent back home or placed in ir­reg­u­larly li­censed NGOs.

The fam­i­lies also heard how the provin­cial depart­ment had not been co-op­er­at­ing with the na­tional depart­ment.

Mat­soso said she first be­came aware of the plans when she was asked to in­ter­vene by Sec­tion27 di­rec­tor Mark Hey­wood.

“The first time we heard of the trans­fers was through Sec­tion27. I was never in­formed by the provin­cial depart­ment that this ac­tiv­ity was go­ing to take place,” said Mat­soso.

Asked by Sec­tion27’s coun­sel, ad­vo­cate Adila Has­sim, whether the depart­ment had the power to stop the plans, Mat­soso said it had none.

“In terms of this project in par­tic­u­lar we had no power. We couldn’t stop it. This is why we had to rely on out­come of the court ac­tion to see whether this was the way to go.

“But we didn’t want that ei­ther. We didn’t think it could be re­solved through the courts.”

While men­tal health ser­vices are a com­pe­tence of provin­cial gov­ern­ment, the di­rec­tor-gen­eral also tes­ti­fied that it was not nor­mal for provin­cial de­part­ments not to co-op­er­ate with the na­tional depart­ment.

Mat­soso said she had been given the im­pres­sion that ev­ery­thing was un­der con­trol dur­ing her in­ter­ac­tions with the provin­cial head of depart­ment, Dr Tiego Selebano. – Health-e News

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