SAHRC hits back at DA over Life Esidimeni claims

The DA says the lives of some of the patients could have been saved if the commission had acted on a complaint laid in 2016.

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 – The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has hit back at the Democratic Alliance (DA) after the party said the lives of some of the mentally-ill patients who were moved from Life Esidimeni could have been saved if the commission had acted on a complaint laid in 2016.

DA shadow MEC for Health in Gauteng Jack Bloom claims Annie Robb of the Ubuntu Centre, an organisation for people with psycho-social disabilities, wrote to commissioner Bokankatla Malatji in March last year, alerting him to the patient transfers.

Bloom says Robb had requested that "immediate urgent attention" be given to the plight of the patients being moved from Life Esidimeni, but this was ignored.

A look at how the events surrounding the deaths of 94 patients from the Life Esidimeni Hospital.

But the commission has expressed concern that anyone would issue such a statement without first engaging them.

The commission's Gail Smith says that had Bloom contacted them, he would have known about the steps it took to help the Health Ombudsman in his investigation.

“The commission is disappointed that the Democratic Alliance did not engage with us directly. If they had read the ombudsman’s report, they would have seen that he had specifically identified the work that the commission has done. We have an ongoing investigation.”

Professor Malegapuru Makgoba revealed last week that 94 psychiatric patients died after the transfers and that several human rights were violated in the process.

Read the Health Ombudsman's full report below:

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

(Edited by Tamsin Wort)