'Esidimeni tragedy should serve as reminder to health professionals'

One hundred and forty-four mentally ill people died after the Gauteng Health Department moved them to ill-equipped NGOs in 2016.

FILE: A Life Esidimeni care centre in Boksburg. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The South African Medical Association (Sama) says doctors need to remember that the welfare and safety of their patients is their primary responsibility.

Sama reacted to the ruling handed down on Monday by former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, wrapping up arbitration hearings into the Life Esidimeni tragedy.

Moseneke has ordered the government to pay the families of the victims over R1 million each in damages.

Sama chairperson Dr Mzukisi Grootboom says the tragedy should serve as a reminder to health professionals to always act responsibly.

“As a health professional, irrespective of your position, your primary obligation is to the patient.”

One hundred and forty-four mentally ill people died after the Gauteng Health Department moved them to ill-equipped NGOs in 2016.

WATCH: Moseneke orders government to pay up for Life Esidimeni tragedy

Moseneke says the reasons given by former Gauteng Health Department senior officials - Qedani Mahlangu, Doctor Barney Selebano and Doctor Makgabo Manamela - were a fabrication of the facts behind the decision to terminate the contract with Life Esidimeni.

Moseneke agreed with the health ombudsman’s finding that the move was irrational and negligent.

He then announced his decision on compensation.

Moseneke said: "The government is ordered to pay R180,000 to each of the claimants listed in annexures A, B and C in respect of general damages for shock and psychological trauma. The government is ordered to pay R1 million to each of the claimants listed in annexures A, B and C as appropriate relief and compensation."

LISTEN: Life Esidimeni judgment is groundbreaking - Health Ombud

Additional reporting by Masego Rahlaga.

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)