‘I was following orders’‚ says nurse on Life Esidimeni tragedy
A witness told the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearing on Wednesday that she failed to prevent the deaths of more than 10 mentally ill patients at the Cullinan Care Rehabilitation Centre (CCRC) out of fear of being insubordinate.
Dikeledi Manaka‚ a psychiatric nurse and quality assurance manager at CCRC who worked at the facility when the patients were moved there from Life Esidimeni‚ testified for a second day.
"It's an order‚ it's an order. We have to do it. I was under pressure‚ I feared my employer. I am an employee and I am supervised by someone else. I [was] forced but this is not what I wanted...I was caught in the middle of everything‚” said Manaka.
Manaka told the hearing that she was following orders from her CEO‚ a Ms Nyatlo‚ who was following orders from Dr Makgoba Manamela‚ Gauteng’s former Director-General of Health who‚ in turn‚ was following orders from Qedani Mahlangu‚ former Gauteng MEC for Health.
Manaka said that they were initially instructed to fetch 10 patients at Life Esidimeni to be admitted at CCRC‚ only to find more patients waiting for them.
“We found 26 patients already waiting‚” Manaka said she then called her CEO to inform her of the situation‚ who then called Manamela who instructed them to take “as many as the bus can take.”
Manaka submitted that she and six health workers were sent to fetch the patients in a 27-seater bus. Taking 26 patients meant they were squashed and overcrowded in the vehicle. When the Life Esidimeni patients arrived at CCRC the facility was ‘forced’ to discharge its original occupants to two non-governmental organisations (NGOs)‚ Anchor Care Centre and Siyabadinga which are situated inside the Cullinan facility‚ to accommodate new patients.
“Ms Nyatlo directed social worker Daphne [Ndhlovu] to draw up a list of patients to be transferred‚” she said.
Manaka said that none of the patients were “handed over procedurally”‚ meaning that they were not assessed by a doctor before the transfer.
The two NGOs were later shut down and the patients were readmitted at CCRC.
Manaka said that the staff at CCRC protested against Life Esidimeni patients being transferred to CCRC but could not go against instructions.
CCRC had a bed capacity of 150 but admitted over 200 patients‚ which led to overcrowding.
Solidarity’s Helping Hand‚ which represents four families that were not mentioned in the ombudsman’s report‚ submitted that most patients died at CCRC compared to the two NGOs.
“Four patients died at Siyabadinga. Five died at Anchor while 11 died at CCRC‚” Solidarity said.
Some of the patients died from the cold‚ hunger‚ dehydration and general lack of care.
The CCRC facility was meant to cater for children‚ who are severely and profoundly intellectually challenged‚ and not mentally ill patients such as those from Life Esidimeni.