According to the former head of forensics in KwaZulu-Natal, Professor Steve Naidoo, essential services could continue without a glitch despite industrial issues between staff and management.
Naidoo was commenting on the back of yet another go-slow by staff at the mortuary.
According to a source at the morgue, on Friday staff were locked out of the premises by security guards who were ordered not to let anyone on to the property.
On Saturday, a meeting was held between morgue staff and officials from the KZN Department of Health’s human resources offices at district level, at which staff were told that they should not report for duty.
The source revealed that staff at the morgue had embarked on a go-slow due to unpaid overtime money from December last year.
Protesting staff were issued a letter last week, ordering them to cease their work stoppages.
The letter stated that the services at the morgue were an essential service, and as such workers were disrupting service delivery.
Protesting workers were told that disciplinary action would be instituted against those embarking on work stoppages.
Naidoo said the issues at the mortuary had been ongoing for years.
“Through the Medical Rights Advocacy Network (MeRAN), we have intervened and tried to get the department to resolve the issues but nothing has been fixed. Other pathology units around the country have similar issues, but not on the same scale as is found in KZN.
“This is partly due to the way in which the department is choosing to handle these grievances,” he said.
Naidoo said one of the suggestions put forward by MeRAN was for the department to adopt international best practices.
Naidoo said this would involve looking at other countries and then adopting the practices that worked best for them.
He said another issue facing the pathology service was the number of unqualified staff.
He said that while some had good training, there were others who needed to be trained and registered as per the Health Professions Council of South Africa.
“It would be unreasonable to have parastatals set up in each province to manage the mortuaries, but if there was a partnership between the public and private sectors, then work could continue despite disputes,” he said.
According to the KZN department head, Dr Sandile Tshabalala, they were aware of the letter that had been sent to protesting workers.
“Staff still did not return to work after receiving the letter, which forced the department to put into action a contingency plan that is being used currently.
“It must be said that our contingency plan is working far more efficiently than when those on strike were at work,” he said.
Tshabalala said that in their absence, 35 bodies had been attended to over three days, whereas those not at work had only been doing three bodies a day.