File picture: Boxer Ngwenya/ANA Pictures

DURBAN - KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Health Sibongiseni Dhlomo on Thursday moved to assure families who have lost their loved ones due to unnatural causes that autopsies will be completed in time by Friday for weekend burials.

This follows a meeting earlier on Thursday, between the leadership of the department and their counterparts at the provincial police. 

Staff at provincial government mortuaries have embarked on a go-slow for over two weeks demanding a wage increase and protesting "unbearable" working conditions such as broken air-conditioners, broken toilets, old uniforms, and lack of cleaning equipment.

Last week, Dhlomo was forced to take matters into his own hands and donned his surgical gloves and performed two autopsies as the forensic pathology services ground to a halt at the Fort Napier Medico-Legal Mortuary in Piertermaritzburg after the strike necessitated the activation of a contingency plan to deal with the situation.

Speaking after meeting on Thursday, Dhlomo said that the department has been receiving calls from the public, members of the royal household, members of Parliament and members of provincial Legislatures, religious leaders -- all of whom were enquiring whether burials will take place this weekend. 

Dhlomo allayed their fears and expressed his confidence that burials will take place, and thanked the police for the support they have given to the department. 

"We have had a meeting with [workers], and that meeting is going to result in us being able to say that all those who had plans to bury their loved ones will be able to do so. We are going to do everything humanly possible, assisted by the [South African Police Service] SAPS to do all post-mortems," Dhlomo said.

"We request relatives of the deceased to go and collect bodies on Friday. But if, for some reason, there are a few cases where we may not be able to complete the autopsy on Friday, we'll be able to complete those on Saturday morning."

He urged families with any enquiries to please call the KZN Health provincial operations centre and said they would be requested to leave their details, and will be contacted and given an update.

Meanwhile, Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to urgently intervene in the ongoing mortuary strike in KZN which has affected many families.  

* Receive IOL's top stories via Whatsapp by sending your name to 0745573535.

African News Agency (ANA)