Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has announced the appointment of an ad-hoc independent tribunal that will process all appeals of the Health Ombudsman’s damning report into the deaths of over 100 psychiatric patients in Gauteng, reports The Citizen.
The tribunal will be headed by retired Judge President of the high court in Pretoria, Bernard Ngoepe, and would include professor Brian Robertson, a retired professor of psychiatry from the University of Cape Town, and professor Hoosen Coovadi, a retired professor of paediatrics from the former University of Natal. “The independent ad-hoc tribunal is appointed with immediate effect and is expected to conclude the appeal process within a period of two months,” the health ministry said. “The Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, wishes members of the tribunal well in discharging their responsibilities.”
The report says the tribunal was appointed in terms of section 88A (2) and (3) (a) of the National Health Amendment Act of 2003.
The report says on 1 February, Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba released his report into the deaths of mentally ill patients who were transferred from Life Esidimeni to various nongovernmental organisations in Gauteng. He revealed that the death toll was 94 following the negligent transfer of patients from the then Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and several of the provincial health department officials. Mahlangu resigned on the eve of the release of the report, while several officials were placed on suspension, including head of department Barney Selebano, who was named in the report.
On 15 February, Makgoba told MPs in Parliament that the death toll had climbed to over 100. Most patients died of dehydration and starvation.
During that same meeting, Motsoaledi said that the office for health standards compliance had received a letter from a group of lawyers representing Selebano and other officials stating an intention to appeal the ombudsman’s report.
The Gauteng Department of Health has confirmed, meanwhile, that another Life Esidimeni patient had died. News24 quotes spokesperson Vuyo Sabani as saying that the man, who was suffering from diabetes related complications, died in the Kalafong Hospital in Pretoria on Friday. “We can’t reveal any information of the patient, because we still need to locate his family,” he said. He had been in hospital since 20 February.
The report says 94 mentally ill patients died after they were transferred from Life Esidimeni to various NGOs last year, because the department wanted to save money. More than 63 patients had already been transferred to licensed facilities.