‘Who the hell are they?’ – Families shocked at Solidarity court action
Katharine Child | 2017-02-08 15:15:18.0
Solidarity Helpende Hand CEO Dirk Hermann. File photo.
Image by: Desiree Swart
“Who the hell are they?” asked family member Christine Nxumalo when told of Solidarity’s decision to launch a class action suit on behalf of the families of 94 mentally ill patients who died in Gauteng after being transferred to NGOs.
Nxumalo lost her sister Virginia Machpelah on August 15th after she was transferred from Life Esidimeni in June to so-called NGO Precious Angels.
She is yet to receive Machpelah’s autopsy report to determine the cause of death.
On Wednesday morning‚ Solidarity’s charity arm Helpende Hand announced it was representing the families of the 94 patients who died so that they could launch a class action lawsuit to sue for compensation for trauma they suffered. It confirmed it did not yet have the names of the victims.
Nxumalo said she had not been consulted by Solidarity Helpende Hand.
“I don’t know them. They don’t represent me. Nobody has called me. Where were they when they were needed?” “After the [health] ombudsman’s press briefing many lawyers have been calling. They realised there was this gold mine.
“It is about them and what they can get‚ not us. I am surprised by people like this. After what we have gone through‚ we need some compassion.”
Nxumalo said the SA Depression and Anxiety Group and Section 27 had been representing the families since November 2015 soon after the move of patients from Life Esidimeni had been announced.
The SA Depression and Anxiety group was not invited to the media briefing. Its spokesman Cassey Chambers was mystified at the announcement of the lawsuit. “It seems odd that the family members that we have been dealing with since the beginning know nothing about this lawsuit. Surely a class action would want to represent the majority of family members affected‚” she said.
Solidarity Helpende Hand CEO Dirk Hermann said: “We are willing to work with everyone. After a case goes to court‚ everyone comes to together and the different legal teams meet each other.”
Their advocate Jacques Basson said the legal action had only been decided on Monday.
“There are different organisations involved with relatives. But no one as yet has said they are prepared to go for court for these people.”
He said the organisation was using the media conference to call for the families of loved ones to come forward and join in the class action.
“The point is someone needs to go to court. We’re willing to go to court.”
The second court action Solidarity Helpende Hand wants to start is to ask that the court order the department of health to act on the ombudsman’s recommendations.
This would enable Solidarity to approach the courts if the Gauteng department of health did not follow the ombudsman’s recommendations to move patients out of NGOs or discipline officials involved‚ he said.