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Families of victims hope Esidimeni arbitration will improve entire health sector

One hundred and forty-three psychiatric patients died after being moved to ill-equipped NGOs when the Gauteng Health Department terminated its contract with the life Esidimeni group.

Family members of the Life Esidimeni tragedy victims testify during arbitration hearings on 16 November 2017. Picture: Thando Kubheka/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Families of the victims of the Life Esidimeni tragedy say they hope the arbitration process will not only help improve services at mentally ill facilities but across the entire health sector.

The hearing in Parktown heard more testimony on Thursday from those who were affected by the tragedy.

One hundred and forty-three psychiatric patients died after being moved to ill-equipped NGOs when the Gauteng Health Department terminated its contract with the life Esidimeni group.

Sarah Mhlongo-Noko who lost her son in the project, says the Esidimeni tragedy has highlighted for her how some officials in the health sector don't take the lives of patients seriously.

“They don’t take the lives of people as important.”

Sibusiso Skhakhane, whose brother survived the tragedy has called on the government to improve services at health facilities across the board.

“I would also like to makes a humble plea to all those who work in the health sector to have patience when they deal with patients.”

Skhakhane says he lives with the constant worry that he may get a call informing him that his brother is dead.

His brother, Mduduzi, suffers from bipolar disorder. He was moved to the Rebafenyi Centre in Atteridgeville, where his condition started to deteriorate.

Skhakhane says his brother's transfer to the Rebafenyi Centre affected his health.

“We observed that he was losing weight. When we asked, they said he did not like to take his medication.”

He says when he visited the NGO near Pretoria to see his brother, he found sheep and goats at the facility.

Skhakhane adds that his brother's health has never been the same as he has become more violent.

Former Gauteng mental health head Makgabo Manamela is expected to testify next week.