Rooms at the Masego Home for the Elderly in Krugersdorp.Picture: PENWELL DLAMINI
Rooms at the Masego Home for the Elderly in Krugersdorp.Picture: PENWELL DLAMINI

Owners of the Masego Home in Krugersdorp‚ where seven psychiatric patients moved from the Life Esidimeni home died‚ still insist that they took care of the people who were at the facility.

They also maintain that the report of the health ombud, Malegapuru Makgoba, into the tragedy is not a true reflection of what happened.

DA members of the Gauteng provincial legislature Jack Bloom and Neil Campbell visited the home on Thursday to inspect conditions. They arrived as the Mental Health Review Board was also visiting the home.

There were also officials from the provincial health directorate‚ who were part of a meeting at which management of the home explained what actually happened there.

Masego Home received 63 patients from Life Esidimeni during the project in which the Gauteng department moved patients to different facilities citing costs.

Houses along Ockerse street in Krugersdorp which make Masego Home for the Elderly. Picture: PENWELL DLAMINI
Houses along Ockerse street in Krugersdorp which make Masego Home for the Elderly. Picture: PENWELL DLAMINI

At Masego Home‚ seven patients died just a few months after they arrived at the facility.

The directors — Dr Dorothy Sekhukhune and Mmaletsatsi Mokgojoa — said the report that implicated the home was inaccurate as it did not consider other factors about the 63 patients received by the home.

Sekhukhune and Mokgojoa said three of the seven patients quoted in the health ombud’s report died in hospital and not at Masego Home.

She said when the patients arrived at the home they were on very high treatment dosages.

"[There are] side effects of the psychotropic medications; we know the dangers of antipsychotic drugs, it is documented. You miss that when you are looking at the person at a face value when you are doing an assessment.

"Hence we said‚ ‘Give us the clinical files so that we can see the blood levels of these patients…’. I said that to Prof Malegapuru Makgoba that we are not looking deeper into other variables of death. We know that [with] some of the medication that you give to patients‚ they [can] drop dead. Hence we said ‘give us the files. We want to see other medical examinations that you have been doing.’ We requested X-rays‚ ECGs and others but we never got that."

Patients arrived at the home with a month’s supply of medication.

Makgoba had recommended that the home be closed after his investigations. Masego Home appealed against this and tribunal Judge Bernard Ngoepe overturned the health ombud’s finding that the patients died in unlawful circumstances.

Journalists take pictures inside the Masego Home for the Elderly in Krugersdorp. Picture: PENWELL DLAMINI
Journalists take pictures inside the Masego Home for the Elderly in Krugersdorp. Picture: PENWELL DLAMINI

"Most of the report of the health ombud was an insult to Masego [home]. Out of 200 users that we had‚ why would we have singled out the other users and not feed them? At any time you can come and check our groceries‚ you will find everything that is needed to feed the people‚" Mokgojoa said.

Masego Home is one of several nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) that remained open after the arbitration hearings into the relocation of patients from Life Esidimeni facilities into poorly equipped NGOs, which resulted in the deaths of over 144 mentally ill patients.

Bloom and Campbell visited the home on Thursday after police‚ who were investigating a case of missing persons‚ reported that four of the Life Esidimeni patients were still at Masego Home.

During the meeting it was established that the four patients had actually been at the facility for some time and were not part of the group that came as part of the Life Esidimeni project.

One of the patients was discharged to her family in October.

Bloom concluded: "I am very pleased that I visited this home and they have enabled us to see everything that we wanted to see…. They have a genuine licence. They look like they are taking care of the patients. Unfortunately‚ I do have questions about the period when they got Esidimeni patients as part of the Mental Health Marathon Project.

"They got 63 patients‚ I am not sure if they were able to cope with them. There are consistent reports of complaints from relatives that they were not fed properly. The management has disputed this.

Bloom added: "For seven out of 63 to have died in such a short period is high. I think we need to look at the postmortem evidence because we need to find out if this was completely unavoidable or not."

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