‘Problems behind Esidimeni tragedy were misdiagnosed’

Retired Judge Johann Kriegler says Gauteng Health Department officials mandated to inspect mental health facilities must do a better job.

Retired Judge Johann Kriegler addressing the Annual Mental Health Summit in Boksburg, Johannesburg. Picture: Mia Lindeque/Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - Retired Judge Johann Kriegler has told Gauteng mental health experts that he believes the problems behind the Life Esidimeni tragedy were misdiagnosed, and the tragedy could be repeated if they are not properly resolved.

Doctors, nurses, social workers, government officials and academics are meeting in Boksburg on Tuesday for the Annual Mental Health Summit.

At least 144 patients died after the Gauteng Health Department ended its contract with the Life Esidimeni group in 2016 and transferred patients to ill-equipped or illegal NGOs.

“I do believe that the role of the Mental Health Review Board was grossly overstated, and dangerously so,” says Kriegler.

Kriegler has told mental health experts in Boksburg that Health Department officials mandated to inspect mental health facilities must do a better job.

He says the Mental Health Review Board doesn’t have the power to inspect or remove patients from ill-equipped facilities as widely assumed.

“(And) I see that the weaknesses that led to the tragedy still exists.”

Kriegler says a gap still exists, with no institution to supervise NGOs or hospitals accommodating mental health patients.

PODCAST SERIES: Lying in state: The Life Esidimeni tragedy - the decision

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)