Gauteng promises January payments to Life Esidimeni victims' families

21 December 2018 - 14:27 By Naledi Shange
More than 1,000 psychiatric patients were moved by the Gauteng health department from Life Esidimeni facilities to nongovernmental organisations ill-equipped to care for them.
More than 1,000 psychiatric patients were moved by the Gauteng health department from Life Esidimeni facilities to nongovernmental organisations ill-equipped to care for them.
Image: Google Photo

Compensation will be paid to the families of the Life Esidimeni victims from January.

This was revealed by the Gauteng government on Friday, which said it had held a meeting on Thursday with the families of psychiatric patients who had died after they were moved to inadequate facilities. All parties agreed that the processing of their financial compensations will begin in January.

Agreements reached included that the office of the premier will begin by checking whether all the claims received are valid and will then inform the families of the outcomes in writing.

"The families will choose one or more members to be appointed by the master of the high court as administrators in respect of claims made on behalf of surviving mental health-care users or executors in respect of claims made on behalf of deceased mental health-care users," said provincial spokesperson Thabo Masebe.

"The Gauteng provincial government committed to assisting all families in obtaining medical reports of the mental health-care users on whose behalf claims are being lodged. Once the master of the high court has issued the letter confirming the appointment of the administrators or executors, the office of the premier will initiate the payment process.  The full amount of money, in accordance with Justice Dikgang Moseneke’s award, will be paid to the bank account provided by the claimants," he added.

Claimants will not pay any legal or administrative fees in relation to the verification or processing of the claims. 

Masebe said the acting premier, Panyaza Lesufi, had assured the families that the government would do all it could to ensure the claims were paid out as soon as possible.

"He further committed that regular meetings will be held between the representatives of the families and the provincial government to assess progress," said Masebe.

In March, following months of hearings, Moseneke ordered that the provincial government compensate the families of 144 patients who died.

The deaths occurred after 1,711 patients were moved from Life Esidimeni homes into ill-equipped and underfunded NGOs in 2016 around Gauteng.

Moseneke ruled that families of the patients must each receive payments of R20,000 for their funeral expenses‚ R180,000 for shock and psychological trauma and R1m in constitutional damages.

Delivering his ruling, he said although arbitration was unusual‚ it was intended to give closure to families and a chance to mourn and grieve.

He had found that patients had been stripped of their dignity‚ subjected to "torture" at ill-equipped NGOs and abandoned by provincial health authorities who abused their power and lied about the scale of the catastrophe.

Moseneke said some of the patients had been transported on the back of trucks as if they were cattle‚ others did not get medication and some appeared to have starved to death.

X