#LifeEsidimeni arbitration should hold health department accountable

Led by former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke, an arbitration process to help resolve the deaths of over 100 mentally ill patients after they were removed from Gauteng’s Life Esidimeni Hospital and placed at unlicensed NGOs for care, began on Monday, 9 October. The Daily Vox spoke to some Joburgers to find out what they hope the outcome of the arbitration will be.

Liyabona Manyaliso,18, student, Johannesburg CBD
This whole Life Esidimeni saga shows that the government does not care about the people and also says there is a problem with our health system and that our mental institutions need attention. The department needs to apologise to the families who have lost their loved ones. I don’t even think arresting anyone would help because already, we don’t even know who to hold accountable, so they’ll just say they don’t know who is behind all of this mess.

Thabile Thobejane, 19, student, Wadeville
I don’t know much about the Esidimeni thing. I’ve heard that they are trying to fix the issue but not in ways that could help them continue with their lives and find closure. They should give them [the families] the results of the investigations and tell them what happened because some people need consolation; they need to know what happened to their family members and come at ease with it. I don’t necessarily think anyone should be arrested, I’m not sure if that would help in any way.

The health ombudsman recommended that the Gauteng health department unconditionally apologise to families who lost their loved ones and to patients who were subjected to trauma when they were moved from Life Esidimeni to NGOs which were not properly equipped to cater for the patients. 

Nthabiseng Molapisi, 19, student, Sandton
I didn’t know that there was an arbitration process that was happening currently but I really think that the government was careless with these patients and should be held accountable. I really think that the government should firstly apologise to the families who lost their loved ones and compensate them somehow. I’m not sure how they can compensate the families, maybe they can offer them counselling because I’m sure this had to be a very traumatic experience for someone to lose their loved one like that. But in general, I really think this whole situation was traumatic.

Not everyone feels that an apology is enough to console the families though. Some feel there needs to more accountability and that the law should take its course.

Mmapitsi Sathege, 19, student, Doornfontein
I really think there needs to be more and thorough investigations in this saga in order to help the families find the closure they need. They also need to do this in order to help the family understand why their loved ones died. Legal action also needs to take place because the health department is the one in the wrong and they need to be held accountable. I think there needs to be more accountability from the government.

Henrietta Mabe, 23, student, Northcliff
Someone needs to be held accountable for what happened to the patients. The law needs to take its cause. People left their families in that institution because they trusted and had faith in the government. People decided to trust the government with their ill family members because they were not able to look after them, so they trusted government to look after them because they had the resources to. An apology is not enough. You cannot volunteer to take the responsibility of looking after someone and then refuse to take accountability for what had happened to them. It’s irresponsible and it’s not right.

 So far, the patient death toll has already risen to 118. Public interest law centre, Section27, which is representing the patients says it has collected names of 11 more deceased patients. The process will run until October 30. 

Voxes have been edited for brevity and clarity

Featured image via Section27 on Twitter