Durban - MEC for Health in KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, swapped his suit and tie for a pair of scrubs as he got to work at the Fort Napier Medico-Legal Mortuary where staff have downed tools.
The go-slow has resulted in a backlog of post mortems.
Department of Health media liaison, Agiza Hlongwane, said the mortuary performs between 10 – 12 autopsies per day.
"However, since the go-slow began, the workers have been performing a maximum of two bodies per day – causing the number to accumulate. Currently, there is a backlog of 26 bodies that need to be processed," he said.
On Tuesday, Dhlomo went to the mortuary, where he personally performed two autopsies.
The MEC has since given his assurance that more autopsies will be completed, starting from tomorrow, in order to help the affected families bury their loved ones. While the Department implements its contingency measures to speed up the completion of autopsies, the MEC has also instructed the Department’s legal unit to get a court interdict to force the employees to either return to optimal performance - or face expulsion in terms of labour relations legislation which governs essential services.
Although the workers don’t belong to any recognised labour formation, the MEC has nevertheless reported their actions to the provincial leadership of COSATU.
MEC Dhlomo has also apologised to the grieving families who are now being subjected to secondary trauma by the workers’ actions. He has assured them that the Department will do its utmost to ensure that they are able to conduct burials from tomorrow onwards.
“We were informed that there’s a crisis at the Fort Napier Mortuary, where workers want to force the department to discuss issues that are being dealt with at the National Bargaining Council. We’ve actually indicated to them that these issues are being dealt with. We know that this action is not led by the union. They’re not part of this," Dhlomo said.
He said he has asked the an urgent interdict to be issued to either remove non working staff from the property or get them to work.
“Families are here, desperate, and crying. They are supposed to have buried over the weekend, and they have not. The people of South Africa will judge for themselves [what kind of people these are] I am here to add my weight to contribute towards making sure that families will be able to bury their loved ones, starting from tomorrow and the weekend. We want to make sure that families that need to bury their loved ones do," Dhlomo said.
He added that if no compromise is reached, the bodies will be sent elsewhere for post mortems to take place.