Life Esidimeni clinicians not allowed to vet NGOs, court told


Johannesburg – The High Court in Pretoria has heard how the Gauteng Health Department refused to allow clinicians from Life Esidimeni to vet NGOs that mental healthcare patients were being transferred to.

Morgan Mkhatshwa, former director at Life Esidimeni, has been testifying about the disastrous project that resulted in the deaths of 144 people in 2016. The inquest has been investigating whether anyone should be held criminally liable for the deaths.

According to Dr Mkhatshwa, mental healthcare patients were moved from Life Esidimeni facilities so hastily that there was not enough time for officials to assess them and ensure that they were transferred to suitable NGOs. The patients suffered from Psychiatric conditions, medical comorbidities and frailty, with some requiring hospital care.

Mkhatshwa said while the healthcare department promised to establish a task team to assess the conditions of each patient, that never materialised.

“There wasn’t enough time to actually sift through and make sure that there is matching of the mental healthcare user to the facility,” Mkhatshwa said.

He also said that clinicians at Life Esidimeni were never given the opportunity to inspect the new NGOs that patients were being moved to in order to ensure that they were well equipped to look after them.

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