The mother of one of the Life Esidimeni patients, who was moved to an unlicensed NGO, left the arbitration hearing sobbing, after testimony that the family was informed of his death more than six months later.
Daphney Ndhlovu, a social worker at the Cullinan Care and Rehabilitation Centre (CCRC), testified at the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearing on Monday that she had only made contact with Joseph Gumede's family more than six months after his death.
"It was terrible news. When I went to tell them, the lady said, 'I can kill you right now' and I just said, 'Mama, please don't kill the messenger'," Ndhlovu said.
Ndhlovu testified that she and other staff members had raised their concerns about how the centre was taking in more patients than it could handle.
"We did raise our concerns as a team, but our CEO said these are instructions and let's do as we are instructed, because these are instructions from above," Ndhlovu said.
"I feared [being accused of insubordination]," she said, adding that speaking out would have looked like the staff didn't listen to the CEO.
Last week, the alternative dispute resolution hearing into the deaths of the Life Esidimeni patients heard that the number of patients who had died had risen from the initial 118 to 141 at the end of September, with another 59 patients still unaccounted for.
Ndhlovu testified how the CCRC took in 267 patients when it only had capacity for 150.
She denied that nearly doubling the patient intake at the centre was the reason why some had died, as a result of severe starvation and dehydration.
"There was food; there was water for the patients. We didn't experience shortage of food after receiving all the patients," she said.
Ndhlovu testified that patients, who were in the centre, had to be moved to two other NGOs - Anchor and Siyabadinga - which were on the same premises as CCRC, and that the criteria to move patients were based on who was mobile.
Ndhlovu told the hearings that a number of patients had arrived at CCRC without ID books, medical records, medicine or contact information for their families.
The hearings continue.