Dept was warned about risk of moving patients, ex-Life Esidimeni director says

Former managing director at Life Esidimeni, Dr Busuku Mkhathswa, testified at the formal inquiry into the deaths of at least 144 mentally ill patients who were moved to under resourced and illegal NGOs in 2016.

FILE: Life Esidimeni Waverley Care Centre Hospital in Boksburg. Picture: Eyewitness News.

JOHANNESBURG - The High Court in Pretoria has heard that despite identifying the life-threatening risk of moving patients from Life Esidimeni facilities to NGOs, the Gauteng Health Department forged ahead with it's marathon plan anyway.

Former managing director at Life Esidimeni, Dr Busuku Mkhathswa, testified at the formal inquiry into the deaths of at least 144 mentally ill patients who were moved to under-resourced and illegal NGOs in 2016.

Many of the patients relapsed and some died of starvation, neglect and dehydration.

The inquiry into the Life Esidimeni tragedy has heard how in 2007, 15 children were moved from Life Esidimeni by the Gauteng Health Department to an NGO on a trial basis and two of them died.

Mkhasthwa told the court that those who survived were returned to the facility dehydrated and malnourished.

He said that they were opposed to the move and warned the provincial Health Department that the 2016 marathon project could be fatal.

"We kept on warning the officials of the risk potential," he said.

Mkhatshwa said that they also raised concerns regarding the time frames of the transfer of the mentally ill patients, who were hastily moved in weeks, as opposed to an initial plan of over a seven-year period.

Download the Eyewitness News app to your iOS or Android device.