The Herald (South Africa)

Three patients missing after debacle located

- Naledi Shange

THREE of the 62 patients who were unaccounte­d for after they were removed from Life Esidimeni facilities in 2016 have since been found‚ a provincial legislator said yesterday.

The patients were found at a home that the health ombudsman had recommende­d be closed following the deaths of multiple patients there‚ the DA’s Jack Bloom said.

“Three of these [missing Esidimeni] patients are at the Masego Home in Krugersdor­p, which the health ombudsman ordered closed after seven patients died there‚” Bloom said.

“Another patient was discharged from Masego in October last year‚ and the police say that one patient is deceased but provide no details on the circumstan­ces of his death.”

Masego is one of several NGOs that remain open after the scandal, which resulted in the deaths of more than 144 mentally ill patients after they were moved to unlicensed facilities. It was allowed to stay open after it appealed against the ombudsman’s decision.

The patients died from a range of issues – some starved to death‚ while others were dehydrated or exposed to the cold.

Tribunal judge Bernard Ngoepe overturned the health ombudsman’s finding that patients had died in unlawful circumstan­ces at Masego and another facility‚ the Takalani Home for Children.

Ngoepe said there was a lack of proof as to how the patients had died.

“The transfer of patients was rushed and indeed described as chaotic,” he said in his ruling. “There are no postmortem reports. “It is true that the environmen­ts were not ideal. But on the basis of the ombudsman’s report‚ it is not possible to conclusive­ly say what the cause of the deaths was.”

Bloom had opened a case with the police two weeks ago in search of the missing group.

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