Health ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba at a media conference on the deaths of mentally ill patients transferred from Life Healthcare Esidimeni. Picture: Jacques Naudé

Johannesburg - The death toll in the Life Esidimeni tragedy has risen to 143, Health Ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba told the hearing during Friday's sitting.

This is an increase from the previous number of 141, which had been revealed by the Gauteng Health Department's acting head of department Dr Ernest Kenoshi. 

Kenoshi, who took over from suspended head of health Dr Barney Selebano, told the arbitration hearing the 23 patients died between February and September.

Makgoba testified before the hearing, clarifying that his submission was not his report, which has been finalised, but merely to provide more information on the mammoth transfer. 

He then confirmed the number of dead patients had increased to 143, up from 141.

Read: #QedaniMahlangu to appear before #LifeEsidimeni hearing in January

He broke the numbers down, indicating that 118 deaths were recorded in his report, this then rose to 139 deaths during the period of arbitration, which included 11 associated deaths. 

"By the end of September 2017, there had also been four additional deaths, which brought the number to 143.

"The associated deaths are associated because although they were originally from the likes of Cullinan... and not from Esidimeni but they sacrificed their lives at these NGOs."

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The ombudsman also revealed that between Cullinan, Takalani Home, Tshepong Care Centre and Precious Angels 100 patients died, amounting to an astounding 72% of the total numbers of deaths. 

The hearing earlier heard that former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu would testify at the hearing between 22-26 January 2018. Her lawyers, making a brief appearance, told the sitting that she could only appear during those dates due to her study commitments at the Global Banking School. 

The hearing continues.