Judge appointed to resolve KZN lab crisis
Johannesburg - A judge has been appointed in KwaZulu-Natal to find out why the province closed five national health laboratories, the provincial health department said on Tuesday.
Judge SJ Ngwenya will arbitrate in the conflict between the KZN health department and the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS).
The arbitration starts on Wednesday.
The NHLS combined five of its laboratories in the province on Tuesday because of non-payment from the department of health, an NHLS spokesperson said.
"We are doing whatever it takes to stabilise the organisation. As a result of not being paid we have not been able to pay our creditors, we can’t operate as before," said spokeswoman Kaamini Reddy.
Reddy said KwaMashu was closed and work moved to the Mahatma Gandhi hospital, Osindisweni was closed and work moved to the same hospital, and Murchison was closed and work moved to Port Shepstone.
"Newcastle is partially closed as we are processing emergency specimens/ICU on site, routine work moved to Madadeni; and Empangeni closed, work moved to Ngwelezane."
Wentworth was expected to close on Wednesday and work will move to Addington hospital.
Chris Maxon, from the KZN health department, said the provincial health department acknowledged it was advised by the NHLS of its intention to close laboratories.
"The health department continues to make monthly payments of R43m to the NHLS and has not reneged on its commitment in this regard," he said.
He said the department did not want citizens to be deprived of their constitutionally guaranteed right to health care in spite of decisions by the NHLS.
"The department continues to assure the public that the provision of health care will not be compromised until an amicable solution is found to the impasse."
In Gauteng, the national deputy justice minister Andries Nel and his counterparts in the health and police ministries visited the Johannesburg Forensic Services Laboratory on Tuesday.
In a statement they said forensic laboratories across South Africa were being renovated and new posts created for analysts to deal with backlogs.
The visit is the first of a series by the three to forensic laboratories around the country.
"The deputy ministers were provided with information indicating a turn-around strategy by the department of health to deal with all the outstanding/backlog analysis that needs to be dealt with by their laboratories," they said.
The strategy includes new accommodation for the laboratory in Pretoria, an upgrade of the Cape Town laboratory and the establishment of the new laboratory in KwaZulu-Natal.
"Equipment has also been modernised and improved. This will ensure analysts can deal with more samples at the same time."