Staggered process used to discharge Life Esidimeni patients, inquest hears

Former Life Esidimeni nursing manager Zanele Buthelezi confirmed that the discharge of patients took place in a staggered process to assess if they had been matched to right facilities as described by Advocate Harry van Bergen.

A screengrab of Zanele Buthelezi (top right) giving testimony at the Life Esidimeni inquest on 7 September 2021. Picture: Judiciary RSA/Youtube

JOHANNESBURG - The Life Esidimeni inquest has continued on Wednesday with the cross-examination of former nursing manager Zanele Buthelezi.

Buthelezi worked at the group’s Waverly Care Centre.

She’s taken the stand for a third day this week and her cross-examination has focused on the assessment, classification, placement and transfer of mental health patients from Life Esidimeni facilities to NGOs as directed by the Gauteng Department of Health.

On Tuesday, Buthelezi testified that the Department of Health was responsible for the transportation of patients to receiving facilities, adding that they had been discharged with the relevant records and prescription medication for up to 28 days where necessary.

Buthelezi has also now confirmed that the discharge of patients took place in a staggered process to assess if they had been matched to right facilities as described by Advocate Harry van Bergen.

“The mental healthcare user would be sent on leave of absence initially for seven days, then 14 days, then a month. Once it was established that the mental healthcare user was adjusting to the new environment without relapsing, then the mental healthcare user would be discharged,” Buthelezi said.

Buthelezi also confirmed that some patients did not adjust to the new environment.

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