20/06/2017 06:22 BST | Updated 20/06/2017 06:22 BST

Gauteng Health Department Denies Untrained Staff Perform Autopsies

Allegations have surfaced that autopsies are performed by untrained forensic services staff, but government says this is not true.

Rodger Bosch/AFP/Getty Images

The Gauteng department of health has strongly denied reports that forensic staff members who are not trained pathologists have been conducting post-mortems for the past 10 years, News24 reported on Tuesday.

This week it emerged that there was a backlog of 212 bodies at mortuaries across Gauteng, as forensic staff have been on strike since June 8.

According to News24, Gauteng health spokesperson Khutso Rabothata said those on strike did not perform autopsies but assisted pathologists and doctors. Unions Hospersa and Nehawu previously said their members had been conducting autopsies themselves despite being unqualified to do so.

Nehawu said its members merely wanted to be remunerated for the work they were doing, and for accreditation.

Hospersa spokesperson Susan Ntlatleng told News24: "These people are the category of staff and some of them only have matric. They were brought in to identify bodies. Later on, they were cleaning bodies. What is happening now is that they are forced to do the entire autopsy.

"Some of them are only employed as drivers, they are now cutting bodies. We have cleaners who were surrounded by the bodies and, over the years, started to get an idea of what's happening, and started helping."

She reportedly said this was happening across the country, and that staff were allegedly forced to sign affidavits stating that a trained pathologist had conducted the autopsies, when none had done so.

Forensic expert David Klatzow told News24 this was possible.

"You have a situation where untrained people, taken from the street... dissect the body [in preparation] for the pathologist. By that time, vital evidence has been taken away because of poor examination," he reportedly said.

The DA promised to write to the Public Protector to request an investigation, while the Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi is reportedly in Gauteng to assist in finding an end to the strike.

The army was deployed to Gauteng to assist with the mortuary backlog.