JOHANNESBURG, 07 February 2017 - In the wake of the Health Ombudsmans shocking finding that psychiatric patients died after being moved last year from Life Esidimeni facilities to NGOs, there are renewed calls for a swift police investigation.
JOHANNESBURG - Families of deceased Life Esidimeni patients have again called for police to investigate the deaths of the 94 psychiatric patients who were moved from private facilities to unlicensed NGOs.
Soon after hearing of her sister’s death, Christine Nxumalo opened a case at the Atteridgeville police station, but now, almost six months later, the case ground to a halt.
Nxumalo explained, 'at this point we’re still waiting for the postmortem results. I’ve been phoning - the warrant officer is not picking up his calls. '
Section27 with Nxumalo asked the police to launch a formal investigation with a view to inquest on 7 September last year.
At that point, eight dead bodies from Precious Angels had been confirmed.
Section27 attorney, Sasha Stevenson said, 'an inquest is the process that we go through to ascertain whether death was due to other than natural causes. '
The organisation has for months demanded an investigation into all the deaths.
On 13 September Nxumalo was sent an sms from the Atteridgeville police station refusing to open a judicial inquest into the eight deaths.
They instructed her to report to the Department of Social Development or the Department of Health who could then escalate the issue to the police if they suspected ‘foul play’.
“I remember receiving a call from a captain saying his principals are saying I cannot request an inquest, the MEC must request, I’m like: “Hello are you not watching the news and watching what’s going on? Why would the MEC want to do that, why would she even care”
Health ombudsman, Malegapuru Makgoba found it problematic that the cause of death of many of the patients was declared as natural.
Makgoba declared, “we have to find out the conditions that surrounded each death. If somebody came there and was mentally ill and died from dehydration, why would you die from dehydration? Why couldn’t you get water or get fluids in the place where you are? You shouldn’t die from dehydration."
Police say they’re still gathering evidence, and are not commenting at this stage.