From left: Dr Keith Cloete, WCGH chief of operations; Prof Lorna Martin, head of division WCGH forensic medicine; transport and public works MEC Donald Grant; health MEC Dr Nomafrench Mbombo; Dr Saadiq Kariem, chief director general specialist and emergency services; provincial director forensic pathology services Vonita Thompson. Picture: WCG

Cape Town - Work has started on the new R281 million project to replace the forensic pathology services laboratory in Salt River, Cape Town with a larger purpose-built modern forensic pathology facility to be built at the entrance to Groote Schuur Hospital in Observatory, the Western Cape government said on Sunday.

The 23-month project is a partnership between the Western Cape government health (WCGH) department and the transport and public works department, the Western Cape government said in a statement.

“The work that we do in health mostly depends on our infrastructure," health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo said in the statement.

"Therefore, infrastructure forms part of our priorities as a way to address patient experience and service pressures. Maintained, clean, and functional infrastructure are at the core of our agenda. Forensic pathology services play a critical role in the delivery of essential services to the people of the Western Cape. When developing these new facilities it is important that we look beyond our 2030 vision which seeks to give access to person-centred and quality care,” Mbombo said.

Once completed, the Observatory Forensic Pathology Institute would provide level four forensic services aimed at extracting, analysing, and preserving the integrity of evidence for use by the criminal justice system.

The three-storey institute would enable better integration of the work of the provincial forensic pathology service and the national health laboratory service, coupled with facilities to support the University of Cape Town’s academic training in the field. The end result would be an efficient and functional building for the Western Cape health department with low life-cycle building costs, the statement said.

The facility would include 26 autopsy tables – four dissection suites with six tables each, as well as two teaching and training dissection suites. There would be 360 refrigerated body spaces, 180 admission fridges, and 180 dispatch fridges.

In addition, the building would be able to accommodate up to 100 visitors to the bereavement centre per day; up to 10 waiting undertakers; and up to 20 students at a time. 

The design incorporated natural light through glazed autopsy rooms and a courtyard that allowed light deep into the working areas. The public areas had been designed to create a tranquil environment focused around outdoor green spaces.

The project used labour-intensive methods providing a number of short-term work opportunities and skills training for local people. 

A total of R21 million would be spent on targeted enterprises, R15 million on suppliers and manufacturers, and R3 million on local labour. The project was now under way and was expected to be completed early in 2019.