The beginning of a landmark arbitration process will be announced today by retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke.
The alternative dispute resolution process was initiated following the recommendation of the health ombud, Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi and Gauteng premier David Makhura after a report detailing the deaths of more than 100 mental healthcare patients in Gauteng after they were moved from the Life Esidimeni clinic to several NGOs, some of which were unlicensed, in 2016.
Motsoaledi found that the Gauteng health department breached an agreement that the Life Esidimeni patients would not be moved to inferior facilities.
Patients had died of thirst, hunger and cold after the department cancelled Esidimeni’s contract as part of its cost-cutting measures. A court application came from the SA Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) and public interest law group Section 27 to have the department initiate arbitration.
Section 27 lawyer Sasha Stevenson said this process would give affected families an opportunity to find closure.
“This was a recommendation by the health ombud in his report about Life Esidimeni where he noted that there has been a lot of trauma suffered by people in the process of the moving of patients and the premier and the health minister had to flesh out different resolutions in matters around redress of that trauma.”
She said it could also mean better redress for families in future cases of this nature.
“It’s certainly a process that hasn’t really happened before.
“It’s an opportunity to provide some kind of closure for the people involved. What it will entail is people giving evidence and sharing their experiences personally and through representatives and asking questions to people in the department. It could very well be a process that may be learnt from and used in future issues of this nature which may arise.” – firstname.lastname@example.org