It was beyond control, every facility does have deaths: Mkhatshwa at Life Esidimeni inquest

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The inquest, at the High Court in Pretoria, into the deaths of 144 Life Esidimeni mentally ill patients continued to cross-examine former managing director of the Life Esidimeni Group, Dr Morgan Mkhatshwa on Thursday morning.

On Wednesday, he conceded that patients, some of them children, died at the centre before they were transferred to other non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

This comes after the Gauteng Department of Health terminated its contract with the centre in 2016.

Mkhatshwa says familiarising patients to a new environment was crucial before a final decision to move them to new facilities was made.

“Otherwise, they turned to develop what’s called an adjustment syndrome as they fail to adjust to that environment if not properly done. The environment is necessary because some of the mental healthcare users you will find that they need a secure environment, or else they will be wondering out of that environment,” says Mkhatshwa.

‘Not responsible for transferred patients’

Mkhatshwa also says he was not responsible for the patients who were transferred to other facilities.

He says 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.

“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.

SABC’s Chriselda Lewis report that Life Esidimeni patients arrived at NGOs without proper medical history: