A woman is comforted after breaking down during proceedings. Picture: ALON SKUY/THE TIMES
A woman is comforted after breaking down during proceedings. Picture: ALON SKUY/THE TIMES

Three of the 62 patients who were unaccounted for after they were removed from Life Esidimeni facilities in 2016 have since been found‚ a provincial legislator said on Tuesday.

The patients were found at a home that the health ombud had recommended be closed following multiple fatalities of its patients‚ the DA’s Jack Bloom said.

"Three of these patients are at the Masego Home in Krugersdorp which the health ombud ordered closed after seven patients died there‚" Bloom said in a statement.

"Another patient was discharged from Masego in October last year‚ and the police say that one patient is deceased but provided no details on the circumstances of his death."

Masego is one of several nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) that remain open after the scandal‚ which resulted in the deaths of more than 144 mentally ill patients after they were moved to unlicensed facilities. It was allowed to stay open after it appealed against the decision of the ombud.

Patients died from a range of issues — some starved to death‚ others were dehydrated or were exposed to the cold.

Tribunal judge Bernard Ngoepe overturned the health ombud’s finding that patients had died in unlawful circumstances at Masego and another facility‚ the Takalani Home for Children.

Ngoepe said there was a lack of proof as to how patients had died.

"The transfer of patients was rushed and indeed described as chaotic. There are no postmortem reports. It is true that the environments were not ideal. But on the basis of the ombud’s report‚ it is not possible to conclusively say what the cause of the deaths was‚" his ruling read.

Bloom had opened a case with the police two weeks ago in search of the missing group. He had indicated that disability grants were still being collected for some of the missing patients‚ but that it was not known if any fraud had been committed.

Bloom said although Masego had successfully fought against its closure‚ it should not still be harbouring patients from Esidimeni as it was not equipped to cater for the mentally ill.

He said the Gauteng health department had pledged to remove all Life Esidimeni patients from NGOs in 2017‚ but had seemingly "overlooked" the three patients at Masego.

"I have written today to Gauteng health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa to remove these patients immediately and place them at a reputable institution‚" said Bloom.

Ramokgopa’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.