ANGUISH AND disappointment is written in the face of family members who want to bury their loved ones.
But due to a strike by Pathologists in Gauteng mortuaries this could be hell of a nightmare.
As a result, the families have secured court orders forcing postmortems at mortuaries in order to get bodies released for burial.
“How will I take the body of my loved to Zimbabwe for burial when the strike by these people is on-going?” asked a worried Zimbabwean national, who did not give his details.
At the centre is a strike by 180 forensic assistants.
It is reported that Pathologists had worked without assistants over this long weekend‚ but new bodies were coming in all the time and they could not cope. As there was no fridge space‚ bodies were being piled on top of each other.
Over the weekend, a Muslim family was successful in its legal bid, forcing the Diepkloof government mortuary in Soweto to release the body of a 28-year-old man and perform an autopsy nearly two weeks after his death.
The National Health Education and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) says its members are not on strike but have instead refused to do work that is not within their job specifications, says spokesperson Khaya Xaba.
“Basically workers refuse to do work that is not in their scope…For more than 10 years they have been doing this. This is not a new matter it was raised with the department four months ago.
It is a wrong characterisation to say workers are on strike or a go slow. They have always been at work ready to do what is part of their job description.”
Talks between the provincial government and Nehawu hit a deadlock last week and are expected to continue.
“It is tragic that the court has to step in because of the pathetic mishandling of this strike by the Gauteng Health Department.
“Families were hopeful that the backlog of more than 200 bodies would be speedily cut when military health personnel were brought in to assist last week‚ but this turned out to be only 7 people‚” says DA leader in Gauteng Denis Bloem.
Bloom added that the Department needed to get tough with forensic officers who were striking illegally‚ some of whom had incited angry relatives against pathologists who feared for their safety.
As the strike continues family members are becoming agitated and more frustrated.
The department of health was not readily available for comment at the time of publishing.