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Gauteng hires experts to help tackle toxicology backlog

Gauteng Health’s oldest outstanding toxicology test goes back a jaw-dropping 17 years – just one of more than 17 000 “cold cases” and more than 7 000 histology cases awaiting resolution.

However, reports TimesLIVE, the department is “ramping up plans” to finalise these, and the opening, some time this year, of an in-house toxicology lab at Helen Joseph Hospital, as well as a recruitment drive to hire specialists, is expected to help reduce the backlog.

“We are aware of the impact the backlogs have on the families seeking closure and facing material trauma due to delays in finalising estates,” said acting CEO of the Gauteng forensic pathology service Thembalethu Mpahlaza.

“We also understand insurance claims are being affected, and we are fast-tracking interventions to resolve these issues.”

Toxicology reports give an indication of the type and approximate amount of legal and illegal drugs in a body – in blood, urine or other bodily fluids – while histopathology focuses on the diagnosis and study of diseases of tissues and involves examining tissues and/or cells under a microscope.

The Health Department, within which the pathology service operates, blamed the backlogs on “a combination of factors”, including the emergence of foreign drugs that are difficult to trace and an increase in cases involving sudden deaths; suspicion of poisoning among family in cases of unexpected death; the absence of medical histories in some cases, which leads to prolonged multiple tests on the body; and limited availability of private labs willing to conduct state toxicology tests and appear as expert witnesses in court.

Specialist toxicologists are now being hired to boost capacity, while the department is also seeking external private partners to augment capacity to process cases.

A specialist skills training facility has opened in Ga-Rankuwa and in the first quarter of the new financial year the long-awaited in-house toxicology laboratory at Helen Joseph will open, signalling “a game-changer in dealing with backlogs.”


TimesLIVE article – Gauteng health to hire specialist toxicologists to help close abundant cold cases (Restricted access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Gauteng Health forensic backlog dates back to 2007


35 000 test backlog at forensic science labs


Shoddy systems at JHB forensic science lab puts cases at risk




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