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Other side of Esidimeni

Ombudsman's finding on NGOs' guilt is overturned

18 October 2017 - 05:34 By Katharine Child
TRAUMATISED Ethel Ncube, who ran Precious Angel NGO, testifies at the Life Esidimeni appeals hearing on TuesdayPicture: Simphiwe Nkwali
TRAUMATISED Ethel Ncube, who ran Precious Angel NGO, testifies at the Life Esidimeni appeals hearing on TuesdayPicture: Simphiwe Nkwali

The health ombudsman's finding that patients transferred from Life Esidimeni facilities to the care of NGOs died in "unlawful circumstances" at two of them, Masego and Takalani, has been overturned.

This is the first ruling of the ad hoc independent appeals tribunal appointed by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to consider appeals against ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba's findings, to contradict a finding.

Retired judge Bernard Ngoepe is presiding at the tribunal.

More than 141 Life Esidimeni patients died after being moved to NGOs.

Ngoepe, in giving his ruling, said that the Gauteng health department has for years been transferring patients to NGOs and that it was undisputed that Life Healthcare, parent company of Life Esidimeni, held back the medical records of patients from the facilities to which they were moved. The private hospital operator has denied this.

The Masego home for the elderly, in Krugersdorp on the West Rand, and the Takalani home for disadvantaged children, in Soweto, had appealed against Makgoba's findings.

Ngoepe said there was a lack of proof as to how patients had died.

"The transfer of patients was rushed and indeed described as chaotic. There are no postmortem reports. It is true that the environments were not ideal.

"But on the basis of the ombud's report, it is not possible to conclusively say what the cause of the deaths was," he said.

One of Ngoepe's reasons for refusing to blame NGOs for the deaths is that Life Healthcare "held back the medical records of the patients", which he suggested was because the province owed Life Healthcare money.

Makgoba spoke of Freddie Collitz, who had shoelaces holding up his trousers because he was so thin, according to a family member.

Last week, health director-general Precious Matsoso testified that many NGOs entrusted with care "were not suitable".

There are 5000 patients in Gauteng NGOs, it emerged.

Life Esidimeni managing director Puseletso Jaure said he could not comment because of the arbitration process, except to say: "At no stage has Life Esidimeni refused to provide information."

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