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15 nurses servicing 600 mentally ill patients, a nurse tells Life Esidimeni inquest

The Life Healthcare Esidimeni centre. File picture: Bhekikhaya Mabaso

The Life Healthcare Esidimeni centre. File picture: Bhekikhaya Mabaso

Published Sep 6, 2021


The Life Esidimeni inquest has heard how a Life Esidimeni Group facility had 15 nurses servicing about 600 mentally ill patients.

The inquest resumed on Monday. It is being heard virtually by the High Court in Pretoria.

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The inquest aims to investigate whether anyone should be held criminally liable for the deaths of 144 mentally ill patients who died after being moved to Gauteng NGOs.

The move was part of the Gauteng Department of Health's cost-cutting measures.

On Monday, a former nurse at Waverley Care Centre, one of several Life Esidimeni facilities housing mentally ill patients, testified.

Zanele Buthelezi worked at the facility when the project was undertaken to move thousands of mentally ill patients from Life Esidimeni to NGOs.

She faced questions from a legal representative of the former head of mental health in Gauteng, Dr Makgabo Manamela.

When asked about how many mentally ill patients were housed at the facility, she said it was 580, but other records show it was 604.

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Buthelezi also confirmed that 15 nurses worked at the facility. She also admitted that this staff number fell far below the required number.

It meant each nurse would have to take care of about 46 patients. Buthelezi said this number would increase depending on how many nurses were on duty.

She said she was not in charge of staff appointments and that it was the responsibility of head office officials.

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The inquest also heard that some of the family members of patients who had been housed at Waverley objected to their families being moved to some of the NGOs.

The families requested a meeting with former health MEC Qedani Mahlangu.

The families had gone to inspect a few of the NGOs and were not pleased with the conditions.

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Buthelezi told the inquiry that she had seen Manamela accompanying NGOs to fetch patients from the Waverley Care Centre. Manamela has disputed this.

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