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By Kyle Zeeman

Digital News Editor

Broken fridges and unhygienic conditions: Nearly 40% of SA’s forensic labs are not up to scratch

One facility has not been checked since "before Covid-19".

The National Health Department has confirmed that over 40 forensic pathologist laboratories across the country do not comply with health standards”, with broken fridges and unhygienic conditions among the complaints.

The country has over 100 labs where investigations into deaths are done and reports are issued. These services have been crucial in countless court cases, but delays and complaints about the condition of facilities have often made headlines.

15-year backlogs

In March, the Gauteng Health Department confirmed that there were over 17,000 toxicology cases, some dating back to 2007, still pending. This has led to long waits for estates and insurance claims, but also closure for family members.

In answer to a parliamentary question on the condition of labs across the country, Minister of Health Joe Phaahla provided a list of the facilities and the outcomes of its latest inspections.

ALSO READ: Gauteng Health in overdrive to clear forensic backlogs

It listed 46 of the 118 facilities (38.9%) mentioned as not being up to scratch, and 16 facilities not having adequate personal protection equipment.

Some of the other reasons for not making the grade included: “poor maintenance”, “fridges not working properly”, “poor infrastructure”, “poor management of medical waste”, “poor housekeeping”, and “unhygienic conditions”.

The Sasolburg lab in the Free State, Lydenburg lab in Mpumalanga, and Mossel Bay and Worcester in the Western Cape were not inspected in the last year.

Witbank in Mpumalanga and Kimberley in the Northern Cape were last checked in 2022, while a facility in Paarl, Western Cape, and uMzimkhulu and Ixopo mortuaries in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) were last checked in 2021.

No inspection since ‘before Covid-19’

Worryingly, Kokstad Forensic Mortuary in KZN was last inspected in 2020 and the KwaMhlanga lab in Mpumalanga was listed as last inspected “before Covid-19”.

Four facilities in Limpopo, one in the Western Cape, and one in Mpumalanga had not been inspected. Inspection dates for five facilities in the North West, four in the Western Cape and two in KZN were not provided.

READ MORE: ‘Undertakers enjoying post-mortem backlog in Gauteng health facilities,’ says MEC

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