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Outrage at true extent of Life Esidimeni tragedy

Malekgapuru Makgoba says all but one of the 94 psychiatric patients died as a result of medical negligence.

FILE: Families and supporters of psychiatric patients who died after being transferred from Life Healthcare Esidimeni gather at the Gauteng Health MEC’s offices on 27 October 2016. Picture: Masego Rahlaga/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG – Today's release of the Health Ombud's report into the Life Esidimeni tragedy has thrown the spotlight on damning medical negligence, prompted Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu to resign and sparked widespread and angry reaction.

Health Ombudsman professor Malekgapuru Makgoba found that of the 94 psychiatric patients who died after being transferred from Life Healthcare Esidimeni, only one succumbed to mental illness.

The remainder died as a result of medical negligence.

Makgoba named Mahlangu, her head of department and director as the key people who made the decision that led to the tragedy.

He also says the death toll could rise further and police have now been roped in to investigate.

The professor says almost all of the patients died because they weren't properly taken care of.

“None of the 93 died from mental illness, they died from dehydration, diarrhoea, epilepsy, heart attacks.”

He says there is clear evidence of medical negligence.

“When you read a report and it tells you a person died from natural causes it puts your mind at ease, but you find that a person went to sleep at a place that was supposed to take care of them but they died… you can’t say that is a natural cause.”

Gauteng Premier David Makhura reacted to the findings immediately, saying the former MEC has also personally apologised for the tragedy.

A look at the timeline of the events following the deaths of 94 psychiatric patients from the Life Esidimeni hospital.

FAMILY MEMBERS RESPOND

Chritina Nxumalo's 50-year-old sister was one of the 94 psychiatric patients who died.

She says she is far from feeling vindicated but is satisfied with Makgoba's findings.

“I am happy, I was worried that the ombudsman was going to be nice and play nice.”

Makhura says he will not tolerate any shifting of responsibility and that action will be taken soon.

“I want to emphasise that there can be no passing of the buck to junior officials.”

Read the final report below:

The report into the ‘circumstances surrounding the deaths of mentally ill patients: Gauteng province’ by Primedia Broadcasting on Scribd

GAUTENG ANC WELCOMES MAHLANGU'S RESIGNATION
The Gauteng ANC has welcomed the health MEC’s resignation, saying it demonstrates political accountability and sensitivity to the affected families.

ANC provincial secretary Hope Papo said, “The report talks about action to be taken on the official so let's wait.”

Opposition parties have expressed their disappointment in the department in the wake of the report’s release.

The Democratic Alliance’s Jack Bloom says what he terms “the rot” within the department needs to be cleaned out.

At the same, time the IFP in Gauteng says it’s also disappointed with the department.

(Edited by Refilwe Pitjeng)