Pretoria — The Gauteng provincial government has roped in the South African Military Health Services to assist with autopsies.
This comes as the Department of Health's Forensic Pathology Officers (FPOs) continue with their strike, which started last week over salaries. The strike has resulted in bodies at certain State mortuaries piling up.
The provincial department of health announced that the military officials will be deployed in facilities that have been badly affected to clear backlogs.
Ten Operational Emergency Care Practitioners from the SANDF have been dispatched to Hillbrow Mortuary and Forensic Services, Forensic Pathology Services Germiston and Forensic Pathology Services Diepkloof to help process the pathology services for the benefit of families of the deceased who desperately need to prepare their loved ones for dignified burial and find closure.
SANDF said they became involved as part of its role to support other government institutions and the people of South Africa in times of need.
"Our involvement is meant as an interim measure to continue rendering vital forensic pathology support to bereaved families until such time that the Provincial Department of Health and its employees resolve their labour impasse," SANDF spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini said.
Health MEC Dr Gwen Ramokgopa interacted with the families on Tuesday. She informed them about what the department was doing to resolve the matter and the contingency plans to ensure they are not further inconvenienced so they can bury their loved ones.
"The Gauteng Department of Health's main interest in this matter is to ensure that reasonable concerns of all staff are addressed and that services for the public resume as soon as possible," said MEC Ramokgopa.
She said the department will do everything in its power to ensure bereaved families are assisted and supported, while engagements with FPOs continue.
Forensic pathologists are available to perform autopsies, but they need assistance from FPOs with evisceration and dissections.
The work-to-rule action has not only inconvenienced families who had travelled from far to collect the bodies of their loved ones for burials, but will also affect the justice system, which refers certain cases to pathology services for further examinations, said MEC Ramokgopa.
At the Monday meeting with FPOs, the department committed to counselling and debriefing sessions to be reinstated for use by employees as needed. An audit of critical equipment and protective clothing will be conducted with immediate effect. The department also committed to the implementation of the danger allowance and the reversal of the Occupational Specific Dispensation (OSD) remuneration scales.