At least 118 Life Esidimeni patients died

09 October 2017 - 16:21 By Katharine Child
Image: Google Photo

At least 118 patients died in the Life Esidimeni saga‚ not 94 as reported in February and the number could be higher.

Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba was testifying at the arbitration hearings in Johannesburg that started on Monday. It emerged during the day it was not clear how many people died.

The hearings are set down for three weeks to find "restorative justice" for the families who lost loved ones in the Life Esidimeni saga‚ which occurred when about 1‚400 patients were moved by the Gauteng Health department from psychiatric homes to poorly run NGOs. Testifying on the first day‚ Makgoba said his report into the tragedy in February was titled "94 and counting" He said he knew then there were more deaths than 94 as some NGOs had " been economical with the truth".

He now knew 118 people died.

He said 108 patients from Life Esidimeni died and 10 patients from Cullinan Care home died‚ when they were moved to an NGO to make place for Life Esidimeni patients. But Section 27 Advocate Adila Hassim said it was representing 55 people who died and 11 of the deceased are not on the list of 118.

"Could it be 129 died?" asked Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke‚ who is chairing the hearings.

Hassim said "the numbers [of deceased] matter and we have had a great difficulty coming to it."

Makgoba said 118 died by February this year but more people could have died after February.

"There may be other patients. "

Hassim said earlier in the day: "Lamentably‚ as we gather here‚ we are unable to state with certainty what the actual number of deaths is. Either this simple act of data gathering has eluded the Department‚ or the families‚ and this process‚ have not been taken seriously. Despite repeated requests‚ as we have already pointed out‚ the department has not been able to provide a complete and credible list."

Moseneke has asked Makgoba to check his list of 118 deceased people with Section 27’s list of deceased patients‚ so that an accurate number could be concluded.

Moseneke said the number of people who died would affect the financial award he gave.