15 February 2017

South Africa: Life Esidimeni - Gauteng Health Dept Confirms Another Death

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(file photo).

Moments after the Health Ombudsman announced that the death toll in the Life Esidimeni tragedy had risen above 100, the Gauteng health department confirmed that another patient had died this week.

"Sadly, it is true. One of the patients who was transferred from Life Esidimeni to one of the NGO's died at the facility on Sunday," said Gauteng health spokesperson Thabo Masebe.

Masebe was confirming claims made by the DA's Jack Bloom that another patient who had been transferred from Life Esidimeni had died.

Bloom claimed on Wednesday that the deceased's brother had said the man was in an "emaciated condition" when he died.

At this stage it was unclear whether the latest death was part of the 100 deaths that Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba told Parliament's portfolio committee on health about on Wednesday.

On February 1, Makgoba released his report announcing that 94 mentally ill patients had died after being transferred from Life Esidimeni to 27 NGOs. The NGOs were mostly unlicensed and not fit to care for the vulnerable.

Post mortem

Masebe said the latest victim was already dead when he arrived at Mamelodi Hospital on Sunday. He had been staying at Shammah House NGO in Cullinan.

"A 60-year-old male complained of abdominal pains last year and was sent to hospital. He complained about the same pains before he died," Masebe said.

He said the NGO called the ambulance, but the man had died before he reached hospital.

"They took the body to Mamelodi Hospital to conduct a post mortem."

Pathologists were conducting tests to determine the cause of death, he said.

He did not know whether the latest death was included in the new death toll.

"From what I know, the Health Ombudsman was talking about cases from last year. I do not know if this week's death is included," he said.

'Urgent' need to close NGOs

Masebe's response came shortly after Makgoba told Parliament's portfolio committee on health that his office was still receiving more data from members of the public, since his report was published on February 1.

"It was quite clear to me that the 94 deaths was not going to be the end," he said, saying it was noted as a provisional figure at the time of the report.

"I can say to this committee, that we are still collating more data that is coming in of deaths. I am quite confident that the figure is now above 100 deaths, as we speak."

Makgoba painted a bleak picture of the 27 NGOs to where patients were transferred. He said they were all under-resourced, underfinanced and underprepared to take on the influx of mentally ill patients.

None of them had valid licences, he said.

Makgoba said 80 of the 94 deaths occurred at only five NGOs.

Bloom said the latest death "gives urgency to the need to close down the dodgy NGOs and transfer the patients to decent facilities as recommended by the Health Ombudsman in his report on 94 previously identified deaths".

He said the DA would continue to monitor the implementation of the ombudsman's recommendations which needed to be carried out within the 45-day deadline.

News24

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