Since November 2015 SECTION27 has continued to provide legal support to the families whose loved ones were discharged from the Life Esidimeni mental health care facilities following its closure on 30 June 2016. This includes support to the investigations underway into the deaths of at least 36 former residents of Life Esidimeni, to ascertain the circumstances of these deaths. These patients all died after being moved to various NGOs or to their families.
We have referred the deaths of all patients to the South African Police (in accordance with the Inquests Act 58 of 1959) so that these deaths may be investigated and referred for prosecution or a judicial inquest. We have followed up with the Gauteng Provincial Police Commissioner and other relevant officers multiple times to ensure that these investigations and referrals take place so that the circumstances surrounding these deaths may be urgently established. It is urgent that the police comply with their legal obligations in terms of the Inquests Act.
Furthermore, we are supporting the Health Ombudsperson, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba, in his office’s investigation by providing the office with information we believe is relevant to the investigation as well as assisting the office in contacting families and other stakeholders. We trust that the Ombud’s office will do a thorough investigation and release his report to the public without delay.
It is critical that the Gauteng Department of Health take immediate measures to protect patients and to prevent any further harm to them. It is not sufficient for the Department to wait for the completion of the Ombud’s investigation before acting. Furthermore, the Gauteng health department must be more transparent in providing information such as the criteria and process for approving NGOs and the identities of NGOs accommodating former residents of Life Esidimeni. We believe that this is information that should have been made public long ago in order to ensure the safety and protection of vulnerable mental health care users.
SECTION27 is committed to supporting families and ensuring the safety of patients through all lawful means. This is in line with the patients’ rights, to dignity, equality, and access to mental health care services. Although we are seeking to support the investigative processes underway, our priority throughout this process will be on patients’ rights and we are committed to taking whatever steps are necessary to protect these rights.
For more information contact
011 356 4136