Backlog of almost 40 000 toxicology tests

Issued by Michele Clarke MP – DA Shadow Minister of Health
06 Mar 2024 in News

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Michele Clarke MP

The current combined toxicology backlog at the Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Pretoria Forensic Chemistry Laboratories (FCL) is 38 974, as revealed by the Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, in answer to a written parliamentary question by the DA.

While the Cape Town FCL had a slight backlog decrease of 33 cases since October last year. The backlog increased with 658 to 15 358 at the Johannesburg FCL and 387 to 16 824 at the Pretoria FCL.

Any test that has not been completed and authorised within 90 days of registration at the testing laboratory is classified as backlog, and each toxicology analyst is only located at least 15 cases per month.

When asked last year what the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) is doing to address the toxicology backlog, the Service indicated that they’re working to expand the toxicology capacity in the three laboratories. Unfortunately, this is not happening fast enough to make a dent in the backlog. The most recent answer indicated that its still in the process of procuring additional analytical equipment, filling vacant posts, and identifying new facilities.

The truth is that the NHLS’s funding is “inadequate to meet the service demands,” which makes it difficult to address issues of inadequate infrastructure, aging analytic equipment, interruptions in power supply, inadequate water supply, and staff shortages.