Witness tells Inquest that Life Esidimeni patients were transferred in a hurry

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Another witness has told the Life Esidimeni Inquest in the Pretoria High Court that the transfer of some patients was done in a hurry without due processes being followed. This is according to the testimony of the former Gauteng Health Department’s Deputy Head of Mental Health Directorate, Nonceba Sennelo.

Sennelo told the inquest that patients were speedily transferred after the Department’s former Mental health Director, Dr Mmakgabo Manamela, told the team monitoring the transfer of patients that things will be rectified once patients have been moved to other facilities.

Psychiatric patients were moved to ill-equipped and unlicensed facilities following instruction from former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu.

The Life Esidimeni Project was then shut down with some sick patients taken to Weskoppies and Stirkfontein mental facilities.

According to witnesses who earlier testified before the Inquest, this was done against the will of their relatives.

Sennelo’s testimony collaborated that of earlier witnesses. “I remember Dr Manamela saying that after placement things will be rectified. And patients will be moved to nearer homes and anything will be corrected after placement. And the patient was sickly as nobody raised any concern that they were sickly. We were there together with the manager of Life Esidimeni and nobody ever raised that.”

However, she emphasised that patients were thoroughly assessed before being moved to government-recommended NGOs across the province.

“I still maintain that physically they were checked by both parties those who were looking after the patients. They knew the patients very well and the people who came to fetch them. They made sure that they were not taking sickly patients. And they were satisfied even in the forms after they checked the patients.”

According to Sennelo’s testimony, the transfer of patients had nothing to do with the quality of services that Life Esidimeni rendered to the department at the time.

She responded to cross-examination by Life Esidimeni legal representative, Advocate Harry van Bergen.

Adv Van Bergen: “Ms Sennelo, you’re well aware that the relationship between the Gauteng Health Department was a long one almost over 38-years and that the termination of the contract had nothing to do with the level and quality of service?”

Ms Sennelo: “Yes I do agree.”

Adv Van Bergen: “So the department was not unhappy at all?”

Ms Sennelo: “Yes I agree because that is what was indicated to us.”

The inquest is aimed at determining whether anyone can be held criminally liable for the deaths in which the Gauteng Department of Health transferred the patients from Life Esidimeni to ill-equipped non-governmental organisations in 2016. The hearings continue.