12 September 2017

South Africa: Life Esidimeni Deaths - 'Disabled People Are Not Animals'

Photo: Pixabay
(file photo).

Fighting to hold back her tears, Sandra de Villiers holds a pink tissue in her hands and says her disabled brother was starved and later died of dehydration in a hospital in Pretoria.

Jaco Stols was one of more than 90 mentally ill patients who died after they were moved around to new homes after the state ended its contract with four Life Esidimeni Hospitals in Gauteng.

De Villiers told News24 on Tuesday that her brother, Stols, 53, had been disabled since birth.

She said she noticed her brother was not receiving the treatment he needed at the Cullinan Rehabilitation Centre.

"He had a blue eye and had a wound to his head. I reported the incident, but no one could give us an answer. I found out that he didn't even have clothes anymore, he was just sleeping on his mattress," de Villiers said.

Stols was taken to a private doctor in 2016.

Dehydration, negligence and starvation

De Villiers said the doctor told her that her brother was suffering from dehydration, negligence and starvation.

"At the Cullinan Rehab Centre it felt like those people are locked up like animals in a cage," she claimed. "They never responded very well to my questions about my brother. It felt like they were hiding something."

A few weeks later, Stols was taken to a hospital in Mamelodi, but there was nothing doctors could do for him.

He died on October 14, 2016 of dehydration and starvation.

Teddy bears and Jesus

"My brother loved teddy bears and Jesus. He always wanted us to sing and pray together. I will miss him for that," she said.

In February this year, Health Ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba found that a total of 94 mentally ill patients had died.He found the patients had died at 16 out of the 27 non-governmental organisations where they were transferred to.

All these patients died under unlawful circumstances.

In his report, Makgoba said these conducts were most negligent and reckless, and showed a total lack of respect for human, dignity, care and human life.

Makgoba recommended that the minister of health lead and facilitate a process with the premier of the province to contact all affected individuals and families to enter into an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process.

In July, retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke was chosen to lead the ADR process.

Finding closure

On Tuesday morning, Moseneke said the primary role of the arbitrator is to give a proper hearing to the State and the claimants families and to give feedback on the findings. This included expert evidence on any relevant matter.

Moseneke, who was speaking at a briefing in Parktown, said his role would also be to find a just and equitable award of compensation.

"The arbitrator must also facilitate and allow space for the families and other affected people to testify about their deep loss and to grieve in the trust of finding closure."

Moseneke said during the preparatory stage three matters remained unresolved - the first was the exact number of patients who died, the second was the indisputable identity of all the patients who died or were affected as a result of their removal from Life Esidimeni.

The third was that not all families of patients who died or survived the tragedy have joined or responded to invitations to join or be part of the present ADR process.

Moseneke said they hope that even after the ADR process has started that more families would seek to join or benefit from the outcome of the arbitration process.

Source: News24

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