Truth Over Justice – Life Esidimeni Arbitration

On Monday, October 23rd during the arbitration hearings in the tragedy at Life Esdimeni, a family member of one of the victims suggested that amnesty is given to the NGOs.

The Life Esidimeni tragedy claimed the lives of 141 patients from the facility. They were moved to NGOs who falsified documentation and left the patients in an appalling condition and left to die

This was suggested in the hopes of “getting answers” in the words of Christine Nxumalo, whose sister died at the notorious Precious Angels NGO facility. She further suggested that the officials not be held criminally liable for giving false testimony they made at the arbitration.
Further, she stated that everything that was said in the hearing by Precious Angels founder, Ethel Ncube Nxumalo “I can tell you that everything she said was a lie”

Christine’s sister was reported to have died on 17th of August 2016 while in a statement from the Founder of Precious Angels. This contradicts a paramedics report showing she actually passed away two days earlier on the 15th August.

While she critical of the department and their actions she wants answers and the truth rather than prosecution for the sake of the families. While she is still waiting on answers from the SAPS on an open case and autopsy report from them.
Going further Christine had said that on numerous occasions they had contacted the Health Department to warn them of the implications of ending their contract with Life Esidimeni. To which they received no response from the department.

This has raised the question over truth over Justice with the obvious moral complex involved. Yet, this would allow for all the answers to be given to the families and the full story finally told of what transpired over the months leading to the deaths of 141 mentally ill patients.


Timeline of events

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Tender, Loving Greed: The Medical Marikana of the Life Esidimeni Case – News24

First published on MyNews24 written byMichael Simpson, Cybershrink on Health24 03 February 2017, 

Cybershrink considers the outrageous and fatal neglect of the needy

Dr Malegapuru Makgoba, the Health Ombudsman, has done the nation a service in exposing some of the horrific story of the many vulnerable people allowed to die from dreadful neglect,  due to shocking negligence and sheer carelessness of health officials.  Penny-pinching in the name of saving money,  while still enjoying their own generous salaries and perks,  they allowed more than 90 helpless individuals to die terrible deaths by being handed over to groups unable or unwilling to provide even very basic care.

At least 94 humans,  dependent on the help of others,  died of neglect after transfer from institutions capable of providing such aid,  to others that were not properly registered,  not competently run,  and without any due supervision.  We’re not talking of a lack of highly sophisticated treatment : but a lack of food, water, warmth and safe shelter.  Neglect on a scale most of us find hard to imagine.  These people died needlessly,  in most unpleasant and easily preventable ways.  Dying of dehydration, cold,  or hunger, is very unpleasant indeed.  And dying of pneumonia or other easily treatable conditions is careless in the extreme, and implies a sense of euthanasia,  of allowing people to slide away from neglected illness,  because someone decides their lives are not worth preserving.

If the same neglect had been imposed on dogs,  the SPCA would have been able to prosecute the perpetrators ; but with humans,  our reactions are far less efficient.

It’s essential that bureaucrats must not be allowed impunity,  and everyone involved in the decisions to move people to such inadequate facilities, in the failure to monitor their well-being,  and in the failure to act promptly to rescue them,  should be rapidly investigated and prosecuted.  The well-known and over-used South African tactic, of allowing people to simply resign and then escape all consequences for their actions and inactions, must no longer be tolerated.  Too often,  falsely, in the name of “providing the survivors and families with closure” the system instead provides perpetrators with closure and immunity.   What is being closed,  and for who’s benefit ?

Apparently, the disastrous moves were not just stingy,  but made in the name of “deinstitutionalization”, a dangerous weasel word.  It makes sense,  where possible, to try hard to avoid making people dependent on the care of comprehensive institutions, such that their ability to care for themselves, or to retain as much care in the community as practical, is impaired.  But to suddenly dump people who are totally dependent on the care of others,  on people eager to be paid for taking them on,  but reluctant or unable to actually provide even minimal care,  is plain wicked.  Don’t call it “community care” where the community patently does not care.

Don’t rely on any NGO just because of what they claim they can do : assess carefully their track record of what they actually DO,  especially what they do when nobody’s looking.  They should never ever be accredited or licensed for mere convenience,  and without evidence that they reliably meet proper criteria.

It is alleged by some that the transfers did not include what was the absolute duty of all doctors, nurses and administrators previously involved in their care,  to ensure that all patient records,  and relevant information about their needs, was transferred with them.  Indeed, where very sick or fragile patients are concerned,  it would be appropriate for caregivers to make contact with those who took over from them,  to check that the people are being properly cared for.

Not providing families with information,  before and after the deaths,  adds a fresh layer of needless cruelty.

But to make it worse still,  these deaths were foreseen ; there were protests and warnings,  from professionals and experts, families and advocacy groups.  All this was stonily ignore by apparently relentless and arrogant officials,  certain that they knew best and should not be challenged.  Such petty tyrants should never be allowed to believe they are impregnable and or be able to ignore challenges and protests.

If the officials responsible for this debacle knew so little about what they were doing,  or about the cruel results of their commands : what have we been paying them for ?

Does such gross and callous negligence amount to culpable homicide,  or some other serious crime ? Such questions need to be asked and answered,  and soon.  If such suffering were imposed on duly convicted prisoners,  there’d be talk of torture.  These were not civil servants : they were never civil, and not sufficiently servants of the people.

Maybe these could be some of the first cases Gerrie Nel could tackle in his new post ?

Health MEC breaks her silence on psychiatric patients

Health MEC breaks her silence on psychiatric patients

In June 2015, Gauteng health MEC, Qedani Mahlangu, announced that the department would terminate its contract with private hospital group, Life Healthcare.

The private healthcare provider had housed almost 2,000 long-term, state-funded psychiatric patients at its Life Esidimeni facilities in Johannesburg.

Patients would either be sent home or transferred into the care of community–based nongovernmental organisations, said Mahlangu. At least 36 patients have died following the move.

Source: M&G/Felix Dlangamandla

Source: M&G/Felix Dlangamandla

Last week, dozens of activists from organisations such as the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and public-interest law organisation Section27 joined affected families in a protest outside the Gauteng health department and handed over a list of demands.

This week, Mahlangu discussed the department’s response to the deaths and why the matter may prompt court cases on both sides.

Can you explain the rationale behind the move?

We’ve been through that. I should start by saying we have met with a lot of people and the majority of them were at the march.

When people take things to the street as if there is no engagement with the department, it worries me as to what exactly is the intention of this.

A number of patients … because their psych conditions could not be managed at NGOs (nongovernmental organisations), those [patients] were sent to Sterkfontein [psychiatric hospital], to Weskoppies [psychiatric hospital] and some to the Cullinan [care and rehabilitation] Centre.

We’ve employed additional nurses … and we are also reviewing the amount of money we spend on patient care.

How were NGOs identified and vetted?

From September, I started visiting the NGOs. Before that … I would not have visited NGOs and I don’t think it would be my responsibility as an MEC.

The mental health team would have decided [on] these NGOs. The report we received would say something like: “This NGO qualifies.”

How will the department improve the monitoring of mental health facilities?

These scheduled weekly visits by our team are important but [we will be doing] more unannounced visits. I have said to some of the NGOs like the TAC that I am going to invite you to the NGOs when I go there. We’ve also said to our hospitals that where they have a [nearby NGO operating], medical doctors, not only psychologists, must … visit those places to medically assess patients.

A memo delivered to the department asked for a list of the NGOs housing former Life Esidimeni patients and the number of patients who have died. Will you be responding to the demands?

We will respond to the issues that are practical to respond to. One thing that is impossible to do is to share details of family members without their consent — that we can’t do. Section27 has asked us for the list [of NGOs and patients].

Section27 wants to sue the department, so they want the list for that purpose. They’ve said it in our formal meeting with them. They came with their lawyers; we came with ours.

How many NGOs still house former Life Esidimeni patients?

Sho, I wouldn’t know off the top of my head … Probably more than 10.

You’ve mentioned possibly taking legal action yourself. Why?

Where my name has been used inappropriately in certain things, I will definitely be able to do so. I am working with lots of people who work exceptionally hard and sometimes they will make mistakes. Things go wrong sometimes, [but] the question is how do you learn from the mistake?


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