Union, W Cape health dept in fight over dead bodies

2015-12-18 15:10
(Picture: Lucky Nxumalo)

(Picture: Lucky Nxumalo)

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Cape Town – The public should be questioning why someone with just a matric and a driver's licence can be allowed to sign off on autopsies, the Health and Other Service Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa) said on Friday.

The union has accused the Western Cape health department of forcing unqualified staff members to perform autopsies.

In an ongoing stand-off over the signing off on autopsies, Hospersa believed that pathology officers were not qualified forensic pathologists and should not be performing unsupervised autopsies.

The health department, however, said their jobs included assisting the forensic pathologists with getting autopsies started if and when necessary.

This has left staff disgruntled.

In a statement on Thursday, Hospersa national spokesperson Michelle Connolly said society had to question health authorities which allowed assistants to fulfil the role of registered health professionals.

"Members of the public should be asking themselves, that if they had a relative who died under questionable circumstances, would they accept that the person tasked with performing the autopsy simply needs to have a matric and a driver's licence?"

These functions included performing and documenting complex autopsy procedures, which could potentially influence the course of justice, she said.

Connolly said pathology officers should not be performing these autopsies unsupervised.

"They should not be responsible for signing the 'Identification to Doctor' and 'Identification to Pathologist' statements, as both of these documents play an important role in court cases where the cause of death is interrogated."

The union accused the health department of threatening workers if they refused to perform the procedures.

"Hospersa strenuously asserts that our members will not bow to pressure and will not carry out unlawful instructions, which could place them at personal risk, and are detrimental to society at large.”

Western Cape government health spokesperson Robert Daniels said the department was consulting with Hospersa and that they would further engage in January 2016.

He said the Forensic Pathology Officers were performing their functions in terms of their respective job descriptions and appointment contracts.

"Which include assisting the forensic pathologists by evisceration of the decedents as and when required. The medico-legal process include the pointing out of the decedent to the pathologist as part of the medico-legal process. As it is a medico-legal process, it is requirement that chain statements be issued in this regard."

Read more on:    cape town  |  labour  |  health

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