By: Lindi Sirame
The third week of the arbitration began on Monday 23 October 2017. The process is to find resolution between the State and families of psychiatric patients who died when they were moved from Life Esidimeni.
The transfer of patients came at a time where beds available for mentally ill patients at health institutions decreased by 7.7% in the last year. According to the SA Federation for Mental Health, mental health services and human resources are limited across the country with 63 community residential facilities available meaning that there are only 7 beds for every 100 000 mentally ill patients. Theses figures form part of a study conducted by the Mental Health and Poverty Project which also found that public attitudes toward mental health and treatment conditions remain generally negative. The study found that mental health is not given the priority that it requires in South Africa and remains a low priority for government, which further leads to the inability of patients securing employment, housing and adequate healthcare.
Between 2015 and 2016, five hundred mentally ill patients who were moved from Life Esidimeni to save government money by placing them in NGO’s which would charge them under R200 per patient as opposed to more than R300 at the private Life Esidimeni. Of the five hundred patients who were moved, one hundred and forty one died from illnesses unrelated to their mental condition.
The Health Ombudsman released a report in February 2016 detailing the shocking treatment that the psychiatric patients were subjected to. The cause for the deaths varied but the report found that some patients died because they were moved while they were sick. Some had signs of respiratory conditions such as breathing anomalies and chronic conditions such as TB. Others died from dehydration and hunger.
The three week long process to bring closure to the relatives of the deceased began on October 9 2017, led by retired Judge Dikgang Moseneke.
This week families of the deceased where able to give their version of events and expressed outrage at the departments decision to move patients hurriedly without a written plan or relatives consent.
A number of family members have given heart-wrenching testimonies this week:
Lesiba Legoabe lost his brother Mothofela
* Mothofela suffered from severe epilepsy and broke his ankle playing soccer at the NGO he was moved to.
* Lesiba locked himself and two employees from Cullinan Care and rehabilitation center into an office in efforts to find answers to his brothers death.
* Mothofela was moved without his medical records and ID.
Lucas Mogoerane lost his brother Christopher
* Christopher was moved from Life Esidimeni to Rebafenyi NGO.
* Lucas had a meeting with former health MEC Qedani Mahlangu in 2016 for her to explain the reasons for the move.
* Former MEC of Gauteng health Qedani Mahlangu says it would cost Government R123 million to continue to keep patients at Life Esidimeni.
Sandra de Villiers lost her brother Jaco
*Jaco was moved from Cullinan Care and rehabilitation center to an NGO called Siyabadinga to make space for psychiatric patients who were being moved from Life Esidimeni.
* He was born with a brain injury and had the personality of a 9 year old, he was 50 years old when he died.
* Before her brother died, she visited him at an NGO where he told her that he was being beaten by workers at the center.
Kaya News reporter, Lindi Sirame filed this report: Summary of Week 3 – Life Esidimeni Arbitration Process