Life Esidimeni: Selebano concedes warnings over patient transfers were ignored

life esidimeni selebano concedes warnings over patient transfers were ignored

JOHANNESBURG – Former head of the Gauteng Health Department, Barney Selebano, said that the decision to transfer 144 psychiatric patients to un-vetted NGOs was a hasty one.

Ignoring concerns by clinicians, psychiatrists, civil society groups and even families, the department pushed ahead about the Life Esidimeni marathon project.

More than 140 mental health patients died of neglect in ill-equipped care facilities.

From the onset of the decision to terminate the long-standing Life Esidimeni contract, some civil society organisations registered their concerns about the safety, health and dignity of the psychiatric patients that would be transferred.

The South African Society of Psychiatrists were among the first to pen a letter to then-Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu detailing the perceived risks of prematurely cancelling the contract.

Section27, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, as well as the South African Federation for Mental Health, added their voices to the growing concerns.

Now, Selebano has conceded that the warnings were ignored, adding that there was a lack of due diligence and the decision was taken in haste.

Against expert advice, the health department went ahead with the large-scale transfer project.

In his latest testimony at the Life Esidimeni inquest, he expressed regret.

“Yes, they were justified to raise concerns to the department,” Selebano said.

The inquest will determine criminal liability for the 144 deaths.

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