Police open 46 inquest cases into Life Esidimeni patient deaths

Suspended director of mental health in the department of health in Gauteng Dr Makgabo Manamela gives testimony at the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings in Parktown, Johannesburg.
Suspended director of mental health in the department of health in Gauteng Dr Makgabo Manamela gives testimony at the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings in Parktown, Johannesburg.
Image: ALAISTER RUSSELL

A total of 144 deaths of Life Esidimeni patients are being investigated‚ with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) "currently in the process of formulating charges".

So far‚ the police have opened 46 inquest cases ‚ 42 of which have been finalized.

This is disclosed by Gauteng Community Safety MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane in a written reply to questions in the Gauteng Legislature by Democratic Party MPL Jack Bloom.

The delay in finalising four of the cases is due to “outstanding post-mortem reports and missing hospital records.”

"I am disappointed that some post-mortem reports are still not completed and that missing hospital records are delaying the police investigation. How can it be that autopsies are not complete more than 18 months after the deaths?‚" said Bloom.

"I am also concerned that there are no inquests for 98 of the 144 recorded deaths.

"It is vital that all available evidence is speedily collected so that charges are laid against all those implicated in the deaths‚ as well as other charges including contraventions of the Mental Health Act and complicity in issuing fraudulent licenses to NGOs."

This comes as the Gauteng Department of Health announced it has issued 133 licences for the new financial year 2018/2019‚ to mental health NGOs‚ "who comply with the requirements of safe patient care and sound financial management".

The department said that based on the lessons learnt from the Life Esidemeni tragedy‚ it had taken extraordinary measures to increase the number of audits to NGOs in the interest of good quality health care‚ "in line with . . . regulations which dictate that NGOs be audited at least once per annum".

The department said both announced and unannounced visits had been carried out that the NGOs in order to monitor and support the quality of care provided.

“I am quite happy that the Department has undertaken this meticulous exercise with vigour to ensure that the licensing process is flawless. The safety and care of mental health users remains key to us‚” Professor Mkhululi Lukhele‚ the acting head of department‚ said in a statement.

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