The DA’s Jack Bloom during a Hospital Queue Campaign in Gauteng.

JOHANNESBURG - Democratic Alliance (DA) Gauteng health spokesperson Jack Bloom on Wednesday said he was distressed that 44 former Life Esidimeni mental health patients were still not been located.

Bloom said Gauteng Health member of the executive council (MEC) Gwen Ramokgopa confirmed the number on Tuesday in an oral reply to his questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

“According to Ramokgopa, 30 of the missing patients were supposed to have been sent to [non-governmental organisations] NGOs, six to their families, five to the Cullinan Care Centre, one to Weskoppies Hospital and the destination of two others is unknown,” said Bloom.

“The names of three of the patients are unknown, and four others have incomplete names.”  

Bloom said that Ramokgopa claimed that her department was “sparing no effort” in finding these patients which she said had declined from more than 60 when the Esidimeni arbitration hearings began to the 44 still missing.

As many as 143 mentally ill patients died after they were transferred.

“But this is actually poor progress more than 18 months after the disastrous transfers from Esidimeni. Nine of the missing patients are still receiving a grant from SASSA, but even they have not been traced,” said Bloom.

He said that Ramokgopa refused to respond to his suggestion that photographs should be provided to assist in finding the missing patients, which was the best way for the public and the media to assist in locating them.

“I fear that it is increasingly unlikely that all the missing patients will be found, many of whom can be presumed dead because they cannot have survived long without proper care.”

“We may sadly never know the true death toll for which there should be accountability in court with charges that should include culpable homicide and murder,” said Bloom.

African News Agency/ANA