Former managing director of the Life Esidimeni Group, Dr Morgan Mkhatshwa says he was not responsible for the patients who were transferred to other facilities.
He told the inquest into the death of 144 Life Esidimeni mentally ill patients, in the High Court in Pretoria, although efforts were made to hand over patients to clinically capable people, some ended up in ill-equipped facilities following the transfer by the Gauteng Health Department.
The inquest questioned Mkhatshwa about his alleged role in the relocation of mentally ill patients from Life Esidimeni. It has since emerged that most of them were moved without proper medical files.
Mkhatshwa says although the facilities were recommended by the department he did not personally visit some of them and had no knowledge of their condition. However, he conceded that some patients, among them children, died at the centre before they were relocated to other NGOs.
“I have indicated earlier on that it was beyond control, and every facility does have deaths. Patients did die and we did have deaths at Esidimeni before the project got started,” says Mkhatshwa.
Life Esidimeni patients arrived at NGOs without proper medical history:
Legal representatives of the families of the deceased patients were not convinced. They wanted more answers from Mkhatshwa.
Mkhatshwa says once the patients were moved to other facilities, his responsibilities were limited.
“I had regional managers and other staff under me. There was a hospital management team and those were the people who were responsible. I was not gonna be there on a daily basis. And there were officials of the Department of Health that were stationed at the center for the same reason that we did not want to hand over patients to non-clinical people,” says Mkhatshwa.
Four weeks have been set aside for the inquest with more witnesses are expected to testify. A 2017 probe by the Health Ombudsman, Professor Thabo Makgoba, revealed that most patients died of hunger and neglect.
Lawyers for former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu question Dr Morgan Mkhatshwa: