Forensic pathologists urged to return to work 'in the interest of justice'

2017-06-13 19:52
Gwen Ramokgopa. (Christopher Moagi, Netwerk24)

Gwen Ramokgopa. (Christopher Moagi, Netwerk24)

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Johannesburg - The Gauteng department of health wants forensic pathologists to act in the interest of justice by returning to work and resuming their services.

"The Department calls on FPOs (forensic pathology officers) to resume forensic pathology services so as to be sensitive to the bereaved families, especially considering the fact that this service is essential and that also serves the interest of justice," the department said in a statement.

Forensic pathology officers are on a go-slow in a bid to register their concerns, after lengthy negotiations were unsuccessful.

The department has said it is committed to working with the officers and their representatives to resolve their grievances within the legal framework.

Some of these include danger allowances, salary notches and recognition of prior learning, technical skill, the reinstatement of counselling and debriefing sessions for staff, an audit of critical equipment and protective clothing.

The department said it considered all the concerns "to be legitimate".

'Speedy and amicable resolution'

It added that the concerns raised were not only distressing employees at the Diepkloof Forensic Pathology Services Centre in Soweto alone, and said "corrective efforts are being explored on national level".

The department's acting head of department Dr Ernest Kenoshi held a meeting with the officers in a bid to find a "speedy and amicable resolution" to the concerns raised.

The department said it would await the outcome of the national collective bargaining process on the concerns raised.

"This is an intensive process that takes longer to finalise and it's fitting that we provide pathology services while this process is being engaged," it said.

Earlier, the Democratic Alliance said the strike "by certain staff members at Gauteng state mortuaries" needed to be resolved as soon as possible as families were suffering extreme distress by the delay in releasing the bodies of their loved ones for burial.

The Diepkloof mortuary was the worst affected, DA MPL Jack Bloom said.

"There were violent scenes there last Friday [June 9], with some doctors held hostage for a period of time. Speedy efforts should be made to address genuine grievances by forensic pathology officers, but any violence should be condemned and halted," he said.

He said the department had obtained a court order in December 2016 to stop another, separate mortuary strike, and should do the same with the current strike.

"We cannot have a situation where bodies pile up in mortuaries, causing further anguish to bereaved families."

Lengthy negotiations

On Friday, five corpses that were stuck at the Diepkloof centre were released to their respective families after Health MEC Dr Gwen Ramokgopa intervened, the department said at the time.

Ramokgopa had visited the facility after lengthy negotiations with the officers. The aim of her visit had been to intercede for the autopsies to be done before bodies could be released to their families, the department said in a statement.

"This was done with the interest of families that came from as far as KZN, Limpopo, and Lesotho who had already arranged for transportation of their loved ones to their respective homes for burial this weekend," he said.

Forensic pathologists working at the facility were requested to conduct the autopsies on the five released bodies.

Read more on:    gwen ramokgopa  |  johannesburg  |  labour action

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