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Court finds ex-MEC’s negligence led to patients’ deaths

The Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has found that former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu, mental health director Makgabo Manemela and Anchor NGO head Dorothy Franks can be held responsible for the deaths of nine Life Esidimeni patients.

In 2016 about 1 500 mental patients were moved to unlicensed NGOs that failed to provide proper care and as a result 144 patients died. This came after the Gauteng Department of Health decided to terminate a 30-year contract with Life Esidimeni Healthcare Centre in October 2015.

BACKGROUND TO THE LIFE ESIDIMENI TRAGEDY

As previously reported, during the inquest, witnesses testified that patients were hurriedly transferred to ill-equipped and often unlicensed NGOs in what was known as the Gauteng Mental Health Marathon Project. In addition, due process was not followed, and the move was rushed owing to political pressure.

In some instances, officials knew that the NGOs were not ready for patients. Plans went ahead despite warnings from various sectors of society, concerned family members and health officials. 

According to New Frame, former Gauteng deputy director for mental health services Hannah Jacobus testified that the preparation and licensing of an NGO for mental healthcare users is a three-year process.

Many licences for the marathon project were unlawfully revised and backdated, and inspections were not conducted. A number of NGOs did not even have good security or enough medication, food and beds.

Life Esidimeni tragedy in numbers. Source: Bhekisisa

COURT FINDS FORMER HEALTH MEC RESPONSIBLE FOR DEATHS OF PATIENTS

On Wednesday, Judge Mmonoa Teffo said that having heard all the evidence in this inquest she has come to the conclusion that the death of the deceased where due to negligence caused by the conduct of Mahlangu and former Gauteng mental health head Dr Makgabo Manamela SowetanLIVE reported.

“Mahlangu proceeded to terminate the contract between the Life Esidimeni care centre and the department despite the warnings from experts,” Teffo added.

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