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[UPDATE] Esidimeni death toll could rise - Section 27 lawyer

At least 144 mentally ill people died after being transferred from Esidimeni facilities to unlawful NGOs across the province.

A screengrab of Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa testifying at the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings in Parktown.

JOHANNESBURG -The death toll in the Life Esidimeni tragedy may be much higher than 144, this as Section 27 submits 12 new names to the arbitration hearings in Parktown.

The confirmed number by the police is 144, while the health ombudsman has recorded 143.

As she cross-examined current Health MEC Dr Gwen Ramokgopa, Section 27 lawyer Nikki Stein says she has affidavits from 12 family members who say their loved ones are among those who died, but their names don't appear on the official death toll list.

"I've been through the affidavits in the records before you. It appears there are 12 names of bereaved family members. Their names do not appear on the list of 143."

As Stein attempted to read these names into the record, State lawyer Tebogo Hutami objected, saying a thorough verification process had to first be done.

If the 12 names are verified, it would mean the Esidimeni death toll stands at 156.

PATIENTS FOUND

Meanwhile, the Health MEC says her department has managed to locate some of the psychiatric patients from Esidimeni who had gone missing.

Ramokgopa is testifying at the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings in Parktown on Wednesday and says the project was clearly badly managed.

Ramokgopa says the number given by the Democratic Alliance’s Jack Bloom that 62 psychiatric patients are still missing must have been a mistake.

During her testimony in 2017, the National Health Department Director-General Precious Matsoso said 59 people were missing.

Ramokgopa says four have been found.

“Subsequent to the efforts that we had in place, including consulting Sassa, four of the unaccounted patients on the list were identified.”

She says she received information from her department officials on Wednesday morning that seven others have been located.

The Gauteng Health MEC, however, has asked that her department be given more time to properly verify these numbers.

WATCH: Dr Gwen Ramokgopa testifying at Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings