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DoH Gauteng failed to raise concerns, Life Esidimeni inquest told as organisations blame each other

Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Published Sep 9, 2021


Johannesburg - Despite allegations by some Gauteng Department of Health (GPD Health) officials that no medical records or medication was provided for psychiatric patients during their relocation to NGOs, no such complaints were raised with the Life Esidimeni Group.

The revelation was made at the Life Esidimeni inquest on Wednesday.

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Former managing nurse from the Waverley Care Centre, Zanele Buthelezi, who has been on the stand since Monday, was on Wednesday cross-examined by her lawyer, advocate Harry van Bergen.

The centre was one of several facilities run by Life Esidimeni to house psychiatric patients on behalf of the GPD Health.

The government terminated this contract in 2016 and 144 patients died after they were moved to NGOs.

The inquest, currently heard virtually by the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, seeks to determine out who should be held criminally liable for the deaths.

On Wednesday, Buthelezi was questioned on accusations levelled against Life Esidimeni Waverley.

Former head of mental health in Gauteng, Dr Makgabo Manamela and other witnesses previously alleged that Life Esidimeni handed over patients with missing files, with no medical records and medication.

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Buthelezi denied this and indicated that all patients left the facility with medication of varying amounts, depending on whether they were being transferred to a hospital or an NGO.

In evidence presented, it was heard that health officials tasked with assisting with the transfer of patients from Waverley to NGOs had raised various issues.

They were concerned about the preparedness of patients and whether the transfer was proper and safe.

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When these complaints were delivered to Manamela, she reportedly said the job had to be done as requested by then Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu.

“All Waverley patients had to be transferred by May 31 2016. We kept on telling Dr Manamela that the project was being rushed but she kept saying that we should implement it as it was a mandate from the MEC,” a department of health official said in a statement issued earlier and read out by Van Bergen.

The health official who was not named further stated that there were not enough NGOs to accommodate the patients.

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Buthelezi agreed that these were the concerns observed by her as the move to meet the May 31 deadline of 2016 was fast approaching.

Buthelezi also testified that when the project started, GPD Health gave the facility a two-week notice to prepare patients for the move.

She highlighted that this quickly changed as the notice to prepare patients, records, assessment and medication, was short as the department sent late-night notices.

Buthelezi further said that despite complaints about patients being discharged without medication, clothes and medical records, these concerns were never filed and raised with Life Esidimeni, either by concerned officials or the Health Department.

The inquest resumes and Buthelezi is expected back on the stand on Wednesday.

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Political Bureau