Retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke is heading the arbitration hearings between the State and the families of victims in the Life Esidimeni tragedy Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/ANA
Retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke is heading the arbitration hearings between the State and the families of victims in the Life Esidimeni tragedy Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/ANA

Probe into health conditions at Life Esidimeni continues

By Zintle Mahlati Time of article published Aug 31, 2021

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The High Court in Pretoria continues its probe into who should be held criminally liable for the deaths of 144 patients after they were moved from Life Esidimeni Group of health facilities.

Former managing director at Life Esidimeni, Morgan Mkhatshwa, was back on the witness stand on Tuesday as the inquest resumed.

The proceedings are being heard virtually by the high court in Pretoria.

The Gauteng Department of Health had terminated its contract with Life Esidimeni in 2016 as an attempt to save costs and restructure mental health services.

On Tuesday, Mkhatshwa was questioned by Shavani Sibara who is legally representing former Gauteng head of mental health Makgabo Manamela.

Sibara focused his questioning on why Life Esidimeni officials had not visited or inspected the NGOs where the patients had been transferred to.

Manamela insisted that Life Esidimeni received an invitation to visit the facilities.

Mkhatshwa denied this, saying there was no official invite handed to him as managing director.

This was despite Sibara quoting Manamela and a nurse who claimed to have visited the NGOs.

Mkhatshwa was also questioned on the type of health care that patients received at Life Esidimeni facilities.

The institution said it was unable to cut the care costs because it would compromise the services given to patients.

Sibara also asked whether there was a permanent nurse and doctor at the facility.

Mkhatshwa indicated that there was a stand-by doctor on call on emergencies and he said at every facility trained nurses were on duty.

He also testified that Manamela was under political pressure to implement the project to move patients.

According to Mkhatshwa, he had tried to convince Manamela on how best to execute the move but Manamela had no choice but to continue with the project.

The inquest also heard that a Health Department official, Dr Levy Mosenogi, had assured officials in a meeting that patients would be moved to NGO facilities that were similar or better in care than Esidimeni.

Sibara further quizzed Mkhatshwa on the report which stated that patients who were moved from Life Esidimeni's facilities were ill.

"Patients who were moved from Esidimeni were in bad condition, Manamela contends. The first received were not in good condition and had to be screened from scratch and (it) appears they were not well taken care of," Sibara said.

Mkhatshwa added that he was unable to confirm the health conditions of patients at the time they were moved.

"There (was) no patient that left Life Esidimeni without documentation. What happened between the departure from the facility and the destination I cannot account for, the department will have to account," he said.

Political Bureau

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