Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi File picture: Jacques Naude/ANA Pictures

Johannesburg - The Democratic Alliance on Tuesday said it has written to the Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to request urgent intervention from the national health department to avert the looming strike by pathologists, whose job it is to check whether patients have threatening diseases.

"The impending strike follows the National Health Laboratory Service’s (NHLS) admission that it would not be able to meet the 7.3% salary increase demanded by pathology professionals and their trade unions. It was only able to offer 3%," said DA MP Patricia Kopane.

"It is crucial that arrangements are made with private laboratories in advance, as a strike at the NHLS will be devastating for patients in need of urgent tests for HIV/Aids, Malaria, Cancer, and Multi-Drug Resistant TB."

The DA warned the strike could have devastating consequences, "seeing that the NHLS is responsible for more than 80% of the country’s pathology diagnostic services".

Most of these patients have no other option but to depend on the public health sector to provide them with pathology services, which are key to identifying whether or not patients have life threatening and possibly contagious diseases.

The DA said it has also requested the Minister to provide a detailed plan of action in order to mitigate the devastating consequences which will be caused by an NHLS strike.

"Past tragedies have shown that the national health department's inaction has been at the centre of too many crises in the healthcare sector," said Kopane.

"These strikes, like the mortuary strike in Gauteng, can have debilitating implications on the healthcare sector. We simply cannot have another Life Esidimeni or oncology crisis as we saw in KwaZulu-Natal, which cost hundreds of sick and vulnerable South Africans their lives."

The DA said it will continue to "put pressure" on Motsoaledi to ensure that the sick and vulnerable are provided with the service they deserve and that they are treated with dignity and respect.