Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has established an independent ad hoc tribunal which will process all of the appeals relating to the Health Ombudsman’s damning report into the deaths of over 100 mental health patients who were transferred from Life Esidimeni facilities to unlicensed non-government organisations (NGOs).

The tribunal will be headed by the retired Judge President of the Gauteng High Court, Judge Bernard Ngoepe who will be joined by the retired Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Cape Town, Prof Brian Robertson, and retired Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Natal, Prof Hoosen Coovadia.

The tribunal has been established in terms of the National Health Act and is expected to conclude the appeal process within two months.

The Health Minister’s spokesman, Joe Maila, said the tribunal would process several appeals lodged with the minister by NGOs as well as individuals.

Dr Motsoaledi told parliament that the Office of Health Standards Compliance had received a letter from a group of lawyers representing the suspended officials, including Head of Department Tiego Selebano, stating an intention to appeal against the Health Ombudsman, Prof Malegapuru Makgoba’s report which found that the Gauteng Department of Health had transferred 1,300 patients from Life Esidimeni facilities to 27 unlicensed NGOs that were under resourced and were ill-equipped to care for them.

The patients died between 23 March and 19 December 2016 after the Gauteng Health Department terminated its contract with Esidimeni as part of its cost-cutting measures. Most of the patients are believed to have died of dehydration and starvation.

Prof Makgoba found that the senior officials and former Gauteng Health MEC, Qedani Mahlangu, who stepped down the night before the report was publicly released, were reckless and negligent in their actions and recommended that disciplinary measures be instituted against those identified in the report.

In a briefing to Parliament, Prof Makgoba said his office was still receiving reports of deaths.

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