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Provinces urged to settle NHLS debt

Johannesburg - The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and health rights organisation Section 27 on Wednesday called on health authorities to settle debt with the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS).

“The continued year-on-year delayed and non-payment by Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal 1/8health departments 3/8 speaks to a failure of governance and oversight on the part of the national department of health and national Parliament,” the organisations said in a joint statement.

File picture: Jennifer Bruce. Credit: Independent Newspapers

The suspension of the NHLS services would severely reduce the quality of health care services provided.

“Ultimately it is patients who will suffer.”

The Star on Monday reported that the KwaZulu-Natal health department owed the NHLS R3 billion, while Gauteng owed R900

million.

The NHLS last week threatened to suspend services to both departments if the amounts owed were not paid.

The NHLS is the largest diagnostic pathology service in South Africa covering around 80 percent of the population.

It also provides research, production of sera for anti-snake venom, and screening for HIV and TB patients.

Divisions of the NHLS include the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, National Institute for Occupational Health, National Cancer Registry, and the SA Vaccine Producers.

The organisations said that optimal HIV and TB treatment would be severely affected by the suspension of NHLS services, as treatments were dependent on accurate and timely results from various blood and other tests.

“If laboratory services continue to be interrupted this will make a mockery of South Africa's flagship HIV/Aids and TB programmes.”

The organisations said they would write to the KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng health departments to seek clarity on what steps would be taken to ensure laboratory services remained available in their public health systems.

“We will also seek clarity from these provinces as to how this crisis developed and what will be done to prevent such a crisis in future.”

Sapa

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