No funds, yet Life Esidimeni dispute resolution process to go ahead
It is facing a debt crisis and has no plan on how payments will be made, but the Gauteng health department is going ahead with a dispute resolution process with the families affected by the Life Esidimeni scandal.
On Tuesday retired judge Dikgang Moseneke, who will preside over the public hearings, said participants would present documentary and oral testimony of their experiences of the cost-cutting exercise turned fatal disaster.
The dispute resolution process was one of the recommendations made by the health ombudsman in his February report titled "No Guns: 94+ silent deaths and counting".
The state, represented by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and Gauteng Premier David Makhura, has conceded unconditionally that the conduct of its employees and functionaries had unlawfully and negligently caused the deaths of the more than 100 mentally ill patients.
Based on this premise, the parties chose arbitration as the method of resolving the dispute, seeking equitable redress that included compensation.
But it remained unclear where the funds would be sourced from for the estimated 60 families affected, said head of communications in the premier’s office Thabo Masebe.
"We expect that there will be financial compensation, but we will deal with it at the end of the process," Masebe said. "We will have to make provision for that in our budgeting."
Meanwhile, Gauteng Health has a R10.9bn funding gap and is struggling to keep up with the multimillion-rand medicolegal bills it faces.
One of the affected family members, Christina Nxumalo, said the route of arbitration was the preferred route for the families as there was guaranteed equity redress in the process.
"The court process does not guarantee any results," she said.
Moseneke pointed out that if all individual cases were put through the legal process not all families would be able to provide the necessary evidence or particulars required for a legal battle to ensue.