Some NGOs were not suitable to accommodate Life Esidimeni patients: Expert witness

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An expert witness has told the Life Esidimeni Inquest in the Pretoria High Court that the condition of some of the patients did not permit their transfer to other Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

This was after the Gauteng Health Department ended the Life Esidimeni contract, citing budgetary constraints in June 2016.

A specialist psychiatrist Dr Mvuyiso Talatala shed some light on unsuccessful attempts to caution different government stakeholders to prevent the Life Esidimeni tragedy in 2015.

The 144 patients died of hunger, dehydration and neglect during and after they were moved from the Life Esidimeni facilities to ill-equipped and unregistered NGOs.

Talatala says some NGOs were not suitable to accommodate mental health patients with certain medical conditions.

“They would offer care but it wouldn’t be the same as the one that was offered at Life Esidimeni or the care that was offered at Serkfontein which was good care. Because they were able to say which patient was suitable for their care and they will know what medical care they will have to provide.”

The inquest is investigating the deaths of 144 psychiatric patients:

‘No proper records’

On Monday, Professor Abel Pienaar told the inquest that mentally ill patients were transferred to new NGOs without proper records detailing their medical needs and condition.

Professor Pienaar said that the transfer of patients from the Life Esidemeni facilities constituted neglect and poor health care.

This is after the Gauteng Health Department closed down the Life Esidimeni facilities in June 2016, citing financial constraints. Professor Pienaar says the health of the patients was compromised.