Alcohol: KZN to have its own lab

2013-08-08 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL will soon have its own forensic chemistry laboratory to conduct tests for blood-alcohol levels.

The multi-million-rand laboratory, an initiative of the provincial Health Department, is expected to help reduce the backlogs in toxicology and alcohol tests in the country. It will be housed in the forensic pathology facility in Durban’s Gale Street.

The country currently has three laboratories (in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town) that receive toxicology samples for drunk driving and post-mortem alcohol reports, which can take up to four and six years to be released due to backlogs.

However, statistics relating to the backlogs in KZN alcohol reports were not immediately available.

Earlier this week, the provincial department announced that the laboratory could be operational by October.

“We had thought the chemical laboratory facility for alcohol tests would be opened by now, but there had been delays in terms of the Public Works Department to do structural changes,” provincial general manager of forensic services Dr Mandla Mazizi said.

Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo said the toxicology laboratory was of significant importance for the province and the country.

“All specimens in the country are sent to the existing laboratories and, therefore, the backlog has been enormous, to such an extent that someone who is caught for drunk drinking four years ago might get away with that issue,” Dhlomo said.

A specialised vehicle has been acquired for the taking of alcohol and testing of other ailments such as blood pressure and diabetes.

Transport Department provincial spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane said: “We welcome this initiative and think it will expedite [the finalisation of] cases of drinking and driving.”

Justice Department spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said the initiative is encouraging and will address the challenges faced by law enforcement agencies in that regard.

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