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'We pleaded with government not to close Esidimeni'

Nomvula Nonjabe says her family struggled to get the necessary care for her sister.

The offices of Gauteng Department of Health. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - A woman whose sister was among the 2,000 transferred psychiatric patients by the Gauteng Health Department says the situation could have been avoided if the health department had responded to their concerns.

So far 36 patients have lost their lives since they were moved from the centre.

Nomvula Nonjabe's sister was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2009.

Her family had previously tried taking her to an NGO but they didn't get any help.

Nonjabe says her sister was taken care of at the Esidimeni facility and once she was transferred, the Gauteng Health Department failed to communicate properly about her condition.

She says her family has tried various options over the years to help with her sister's schizophrenia.

"They get dangerous, I will tell you different scenes with my sister - she would run away and go to the highway and at some point, my aunt had to be called, we thought she was dead."

Nonjabe says she was told by Esidimeni management last year that the facility would be shutting down in March this year.

"We cried to government, we pleaded with them not to close because they told us that they are closing in March."

Esidimeni management says it handled the transfers with the necessary care and information while the Gauteng Health Department claims it's been waiting for patient's medical records.

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