Life Esidimeni closure unintentional: Dr Manamela

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The former head of Gauteng’s Mental Health Services Dr Mmakgabo Manamela says what began as measures to reduce beds at Life Esidimeni facilities led to the unintended closure of the NGO.

Manamela was being cross-examined by the legal team of her former boss Qedani Mahlangu – the former Gauteng Health MEC.

The inquest is probing the deaths of 144 mentally-ill patients following their removal from Life Esidimeni to ill-equipped and unlicensed NGOs.

Manamela has told the Life Esidimeni Inquest in the Pretoria High Court that the closure of the Life Esidimeni facilities compelled the department to relocate about 3 000 mental health patients to other facilities across Gauteng.

Manamela who testified with the assistance of an interpreter responded to cross-examination by Mahlangu’s legal representative, Advocate Willis “And to refresh my memory after this termination Life Esidimeni shut the Witpoortjie facility do you agree with that?

Dr Manamela says “I don’t agree with that. We must not confuse the two aspects. The reduction of 200 of beds and the termination aspect.”

She also testified about the then financial status of Life Esidimeni. “In terms of finance their profit was only R29million and they were compliant on how they use money. But in terms of patients care there were those that were malnourished.”

According to Manamela, the Life Esidimeni staff model was questionable as it couldn’t meet the necessary requirements. “In terms of staff, it was recommended that there should be at least two professional nurses per ward. Yes in one ward. The staff model was not in line with the required model.”

The inquest wants to determine if any individuals could be held criminally liable for the deaths of the 144 mental health patients at Life Esidimeni facilities during the 2016 relocation.

Life Esidimeni inquest I Most patients were relocated to Pretoria, says Dr Manamela: