By Hassan Isilow
The South African government was ordered on Monday to pay 1.2 million rand ($99,394) to each of the families of psychiatric patients who died after they were transferred from a hospital to unlicensed clinics.
A total of 144 mentally-ill patients died after the health minister for Gauteng ordered the transfer of over 1,000 patients from a hospital run by Life Healthcare Esidimeni to unlicensed clinics.
The deaths occurred between September 2015 and early 2016 when the patients were moved from the hospital that had been caring for mentally-ill patients for over three decades.
Among the clinics to receive the patients were 27 nongovernmental organizations operating unlawfully with either incorrect licenses or no license at all.
“Government is ordered to pay $1 million rand ($82,790) as appropriate relief for compensation,” retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, who was appointed to arbitrate the matter, ordered.
Moseneke also ordered the government to pay 180,000 rands ($14,914) as damages for the shock and psychological trauma suffered by the families.
He said the state should also pay 20,000 rand ($1,657) to each of the families to cover for funeral expenses they paid.
The Gauteng provincial government, which includes Johannesburg and Pretoria, is expected to foot the bill within three months.
The order said the transfer of patients from a registered hospital was a wrong decision that led to several deaths.
Moseneke said the rights of mentally-ill patients had been violated and disregarded during the transfers.
He said 1,400 mentally-ill patients had survived torturous conditions and criticized officials for transporting them in pickup trucks.