Half forensic pathology units denied certificates of competence – Michele Clarke

In ECape, only 3 of the 16 forensic units have been certified for compliance, says DA MP

As violent crime increases, our forensic pathology units continue to fail

7 April 2024

Almost half of the country’s forensic pathology units were denied certificates of competence following regular inspection tests due to poor and failing infrastructure as well as unhealthy and unsafe conditions. Only 53% of our 117 pathology units, obtained certificates of competence. With violent crime continuing to increase, with more than as 7 700 South Africans murdered in the past year, this does not bode well for our healthcare system’s capacity in assisting law enforcement to investigate these cases.

Non-compliant units are also disproportionately affected in our poorer, more rural provinces. In the Eastern Cape, only 3 of the 16 forensic units have been certified for compliance. In terms of personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff, 7 of the 16 units are not up to standard, which places staff at health risk. In Mpumalanga, 9 of its 21 units are not compliant, with its infrastructure described as “poorly maintained”. . This was similar in KwaZulu-Natal, where 10 of its units are non-compliant due to poorly maintained infrastructure. Equally concerning is that is some provinces, regular inspections have not taken place ncluding a third of units in Limpopo, and an astonishing 5 of 7 units in the North West with no date provided of last inspection. The North West performs poorly all around, as only two of its facilities have been certified, with 5 of its facilities having inadequate PPE. With missing results, it is therefore unclear what the full picture is, but present results already paint a bad picture.

This should be a source of embarrassment for the National Department of Health which is clearly failing in its responsibilities to ensure compliance with regulatory standards, including ensuring that noncompliant facilities have implemented plans to make turnarounds. Inadequate forensic units also hamper state institutions like the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the National Prosecuting Authority in delivering speedy criminal investigations and ensuring justice in cases including murder and rape. With the Department of Health still backing the National Health Insurance (NHI), the quality of our health infrastructure is not expected to improve, as a pooled budget, poor leadership and high rates of fraud and corruption cause further deterioration.

We need to do better for our healthcare system and strive for a national government and Department of Health which ensure that our infrastructure is maintained. A DA-led government can achieve this by ensuring that health facilities are independently run and supervised. Due to political influence in our healthcare system, governance has eroded, and this is demonstrated by wasteful expenditure amounting to over R3.3 billion, with medical legal claims at a staggering R23.6 billion. These lost funds could be rechannelled to ensuring better health outcomes for all, irrespective of income status. On May 29, Election Day, let us take a step forward to achieving quality healthcare for all.

Issued by Michele Clarke, DA Shadow Minister of Health, 7 April 2024