OPINION

Life Esidimeni: Disciplining of officials put on hold - Jack Bloom

DA MPL says this is pending the finalisation of their appeal against Health Ombud's findings

DISCIPLINE OF TOP ESIDIMENI OFFICIALS PUT ON HOLD

The disciplinary cases of two top Gauteng Health Department officials have been put on hold pending the finalization of their appeal against the Health Ombudman's findings about the deaths of patients transferred from Life Esidimeni to unsuitable NGOs.

This is revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

Ramokgopa says that Dr Barney Selebano (Head of Department) and Dr Makgabo Manamela (Director: Mental Health) have been charged with seven and eight charges respectively, including Fraud, Misleading the Provincial Legislature and the Public, Gross Negligence, Gross Dereliction of Duties, Breaches of Laws, and Bringing the Department into Disrepute.

However "the Pretoria High Court has ordered that the disciplinary hearing should be put on hold pending the finalization of the appeal process at National Level against the Health Ombud's recommendations."

I am dismayed by the delay in the appeal process and the disciplinary cases. 

Meanwhile, costs are mounting as the two officials are being paid while on suspension - Selebano has been paid R821 078 and Manamela has received R491 965 from 1 February to 30 September 2017.

Furthermore, R1.145 million has so far been spent on consultants and legal costs in this matter.

I am also concerned that the police investigation is so slow and that 21 post-mortem reports have not been completed as disclosed in the current Esidimeni arbitration hearings.

The intended result of these hearings is redress and compensation to the relatives of the deceased patients, but real justice will only be achieved when the perpetrators are charged and convicted in court.

This must include former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu who is the prime person to blame for the whole tragedy. 

I question the competence of the investigators who have been so slow in this matter. 

How can it be that there are still 7 unidentified bodies lying in a mortuary and 59 untraced patients, and we still do not know exactly how many died?

Every effort should be made to complete all aspects of the investigation and disciplinary process.

Statement issued by Jack Bloom MPL, DA Gauteng Shadow Health MEC, 15 October 2017