A South African High Court opened an inquest on Monday into the deaths of 144 psychiatric patients who perished from neglect after being relocated from hospitals to unlicensed facilities.

Judge Mmonoa Teffo will hear evidence expected to result in the prosecution of health department executives in Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg and Pretoria.

The National Prosecution Authority’s lawyer Pieter Luyt said at the start of the inquest, being held virtually, that the “greater number of the deceased died in NGOs that were not properly vetted, or vetted at all.”

The “hastiness” of their transfer meant that many patients were placed in “facilities not equipped to care for them,” he said.

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