In Gauteng, some families had reportedly secured court orders to force post-mortems at state mortuaries so they could get bodies for burial as the strike by about 180 forensic assistants dragged on with no end in sight.
Employees have gone on strike over wages and what they described as unfair working conditions and staff shortages.
Western Cape Health department spokesperson Mark van der Heever said forensic pathology staff members were working around the clock to reduce the backlog. He said the strike followed a wave of strike action in the health sector nationally.
“While we are committed to listening to staff concerns, the department does not condone the strike action. Health service staff (including forensic pathology staff) are an essential service and our delivery of service to the public must be prioritised at all times."
"All unnatural deaths require a medico-legal investigation of death which includes a post-mortem examination,” he said.
Van der Heever said unidentified bodies where autopsies have already been done and which had remained unidentified 30 days after admission would be released to an appointed undertaker for pauper burial once the Victim Identification Board had given authority to release.
National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) provincial secretary Eric Kweleta said: “Within the pathology services, there is a staff shortage. Because of this, they took people who were not qualified, who are general workers, to assist to perform the duties of forensic pathologists and post-mortems."