16/11/2017 05:47 GMT | Updated 16/11/2017 05:47 GMT

Life Esidimeni Hearings: Nurse Was 'Following Orders'

Staff was under pressure from above to accept more patients than they could.

Veli Nhlapo/Sowetan/Gallo Images/Getty Images
Former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke during the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearing at Emoyeni Conference Centre, Parktown on October 09, 2017.

A nurse testifying at the Life Esidimeni hearings says she was just following orders when she failed to prevent the deaths of more than 10 mentally ill patients at the Cullinan Care Rehabilitation Centre (CCRC), Times Live reported.

The nurse, Dikeledi Manaka, is a psychiatric nurse who worked at the CCRC when the patients were moved from Life Esidimeni facilities.

Over 140 mentally ill patients died at unlicensed and ill-equipped nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) after the Gauteng department of health moved them from Life Esidimeni centres. Arbitration hearings are currently underway in Johannesburg, chaired by former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke.

Manaka reportedly said that she was following the orders of her CEO, who in turn was following orders from the Gauteng director-general of health, Dr Makgoba Manamela.

Manamela was under orders from former Gauteng MEC for health, Qedani Mahlangu, Manaka said.

"It's an order‚ it's an order. We have to do it. I was under pressure‚ I feared my employer. I am an employee and I am supervised by someone else. I [was] forced but this is not what I wanted... I was caught in the middle of everything‚" said Manaka.

Manaka reportedly said that she and six other staff members were told to fetch 10 patients at Life Esidimeni, but there were 26 patients waiting when they arrived. Her CEO told her to take "as many as the bus can take".

Staff at the CCRC did not want the Life Esidemeni patients, but they were overruled by their superiors, she said. Manaka reportedly said the patients were not assessed by a doctor before being transferred, and that CCRC patients had to be moved to accommodate the Life Esidimeni patients. The facility had a bed capacity of 150, but admitted over 200 patients, Times Live reported.

On Monday, specialist psychiatrist Dr Mvuyiso Talatala told the hearings that he warned the Gauteng health department against moving the patients, but was ignored, according to Eyewitness News (EWN). Talata said he wrote to the officials, as well as the MEC and the national department of health.

Moseneke reportedly asked him: "The head of department ignored you, head of mental healthcare ignored you, the project leader Mr [Levy] Mosenogi ignored you, you go to court twice and they promise the court that they will talk to you and consult, but they don't. Why do you think they ignored you?"

"I think there are multiple reasons, probably they don't care about mentally ill patients, especially patients of that severity," Talatala reportedly said.