SAMHS helping Gauteng Health clear autopsy backlog


The SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) has since yesterday (Wednesday) been assisting with autopsies in Gauteng because labour action at the provincial department of health has led to a backlog in this aspect of operations.

There are currently 10 operational emergency care practitioners from SAMHS working at Hillbrow Mortuary and Forensic Services, Forensic Pathology Services Germiston and Forensic Pathology Services Diepkloof.

This is the second time is as many weeks that the country’s military has been called in to assist where provincial governments and municipalities have not been able to cope. The first saw the airborne arm of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) come to the aid of people in the Garden Route area when it was ravaged by wildfires last week.

With the job done for some of the SA Air Force’s (SAAF) helicopter crews the military medical service has now stepped in when called on.

Military officials from SAMHS have been deployed in Gauteng provincial health facilities affected by the work-to-rule action that has been taken up by some employees since June 8.
“Their work will be to clear backlogs caused by the industrial action,” Gauteng MEC for Health, Gwen Ramokgopa, said. This has to date seen five autopsies conducted at Diepkloof and the bodies released to families.
“The SANDF became involves as part of its role to support other government departments and the people of South Africa in times of need,” said Siphiwe Dlamini, Department of Defence head of communications. He added the involvement of military medics was an interim measure to ensure “vital forensic pathology support would continue as a provincial health service until the labour impasse was resolved”.

Forensic pathologists are available to perform autopsies but need assistance during the procedure. This is where the SAMHS operational emergency care practitioners come into their own enabling proper autopsy and pathology work to be done at the various Gauteng provincial autopsy centres.

Neither Ramokgopa nor SAMHS gave an indication how long they will be on detached duty.