Crucial Life Esidimeni documents lost in health department office fire

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The High Court in Pretoria has heard that crucial documents meant for the Life Esidimeni patients transfer saga were destroyed in a fire at the Gauteng health department’s offices in 2018.

This is according to mental health care expert, Abel Pienaar, who concluded his testimony at the Life Esidimeni Inquest.

The hearing is considering whether anyone can be held criminally liable for the deaths of 144 mental health patients who were transferred from Life Esidimeni to unregistered NGOs.

This is after the Gauteng Health Department closed down the Life Esidimeni facilities in June 2016, citing financial constraints.

Patients died of hunger, dehydration and neglect during the transfer when they were moved to the ill-equipped and unregistered NGOs in 2016.

Pienaar says, “And in most of my reports I have noted when I needed some assessment reports in my files I couldn’t find them. This is the document that divulges the chronological age. The problem of a fire could influence the conclusion and the evaluation of your evidence.”

Life Esidimeni Inquest I Prof Abel Pienaar cross-examined:

Pienaar previously testified how the transfer process was clearly marred by poor management of their records and that some of the patients had a dual diagnosis of diabetes and a stroke during the transfer period, but such information was not recorded in their transfer files.

According to reports, about 1 500 psychiatric patients were moved from Life Esidimeni facilities between March and June of 2016, and into the care of over 100 NGOs, psychiatric hospitals, and community care facilities.

The department called transfer and placement of patients the Gauteng Mental Health Marathon Project.