Esidimeni toll now 100 – and counting
Ombud tells MPs more fatalities are expected
HEALTH ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba has warned the government of possibly more psychiatric patient deaths as the Esidimeni tally climbed above 100.
Makgoba told Parliament yesterday more patient deaths were expected as the numbers kept growing daily.
MPs also took a swipe at former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu, accusing her of belligerence and treating them like officials when in Parliament.
Members of the House and National Council of Provinces (NCOP) said yesterday they had to remind Mahlangu they were not officials, but MPs.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and Makgoba yesterday appeared before the joint committees on health in the Assembly and the NCOP.
Makgoba described the situation at Life Esidimeni as shambolic and chaotic. He said the NGOs were not prepared when several patients were transferred to their facilities.
He said that despite his report recording 94 deaths, this number would go up as more deaths were uncovered.
“From the data that is coming we are above 100, I am counting. The figure that is coming, we are above 100, we are still correlating,” said Makgoba.
He added Motsoaledi would have to decide on the cut-off point on the deaths. He kept receiving reports of more deaths every day.
Motsoaledi said there were inconsistencies in the reports by Mahlangu, the health ombudsman and his ministerial advisory team.
While Mahlangu had said in the Gauteng provincial legislature in September there were 36 deaths recorded in the facilities, his advisory team had within two days found there were 60 deaths and the ombudsman at the time had noted 77 deaths. Motsoaledi said this showed Mahlangu and the provincial legislature did not know what was going on.
Makgoba reiterated that the provincial government had stuck to the 36 number of deaths when the number was rising.
“When the MEC made the announcement in the legislature that 36 patients had died, 77 patients had already died by then,” said Makgoba.
“She did not know then. She did not know by November 29. I don’t know what to call that,” he said.
Makgoba said the National Prosecuting Authority, the police and forensic pathologists would decide on the prosecution of individuals. Already more than 10 senior officials had been suspended.
MPs in the joint health committees complained that Mahlangu did not treat them with the respect they deserved when she appeared in Parliament.
Cathy Dlamini, chairperson of the health and social services committee in the NCOP, said that when it invited provincial MECs last year, Mahlangu “had an attitude”.
She said the issue had been raised with Mahlangu.
The acting chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee on health, Fish Mahlalela, said committee members were concerned about Mahlangu’s attitude when she appeared before them.
“We had a meeting with the MEC. She wanted to control us. We told her that we are not officials,” he said.
He said it appeared that Mahlangu ruled with an iron fist. “We experienced that ourselves until we told her we are not accounting to you,” said Mahlalela. INDEPENDENT Police Investigative Directorate boss Robert McBride has hit back at acting national commissioner of police Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane for claiming not to have been notified about a probe into him.
Briefing the portfolio committee on police yesterday, McBride said Phahlane’s recent denials to the committee were false.
“We have documentary proof that not only was he
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Children look at a sculpture made with lemons and oranges which depicts the musical comedy The Lion King during the 84th Lemon Festival around the theme “Broadway” in Menton, France, yesterday. ERIC GAILLARD / REUTERS
GRIM TIDINGS: Professor Malegapuru Makgoba