Blood and alcohol toxicology tests – Parliament SA


3 January 2019 – James, Ms LV to ask the Minister of Health –  January 2019 –  Question NW3602 to the Minister of Health.
Question : How does his department intend to improve the turnaround time for blood and alcohol toxicology tests which remain a concern?

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1. Blood Alcohol

We have made a huge progress in terms of improving output as well as turnaround time in Blood Alcohol. A total of 324,649 samples were for the period 1 April 2015 to 30 September 2018 for blood alcohol ante mortem.

For blood alcohol post mortem, 76,922 were tested samples for the same period. The improvement is a result of the replacement of old equipment and working overtime because volumes of samples are still increasing.

2. Toxicology

In the area of Toxicology, we have embarked on a combination of interventions as this is one of the areas where progress has been slow as a result of lack of specific targeting of which compounds should be tested for, i.e South Africa’s blue-5kg approach. The interventions are as follows:

a) At a meeting with the Forensic Pathologist we agreed that we will embark on using a targeted approach to Toxicology analysis. The work for this started in 2017 where a list of forensically significant compounds was implemented for routine testing, where the compounds cannot be specified by the Pathologist. To achieve the above the Forensic Chemistry Laboratories have developed instrumental methods for this approach, and validation of compounds of which Certified Reference Materials are available, have been completed.

Some compounds are still in the process of procurement. Once all these compounds have been received, this approach can be fully implemented in these three FCL’s.

b) Parallel to the above process the Criminal Justice System Reform committee has assisted the laboratories with a national audit of police dockets and mortuary files in order to determine which backlogged cases still require prosecution. During a third full audit of all outstanding cases during 2016 and 2017, they have provided the FCLs with a list of cases with SAPS CAS numbers where prosecution, and thus analysis, is still required. Some cases on the list have been completed before 31 March 2017 and we now have a verified list used as the baseline list to monitor performance.

The Forensic Chemistry Laboratories analyse cases from the verified list, newly received cases to prevent them from becoming backlogged (as all have these samples have CAS numbers), as well as prioritisation of all urgent request from Pathologists, Court Cases and insurance matters.

c) Four tenders for the procurement of additional capital equipment (for the targeted approach to Toxicology analysis) to replace old and redundant analytical equipment at the FCL’s in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria.

d) Overtime is also applied and its combination with additional equipment will assist in improving the turnaround times in Toxicology analysis.

Why is Drunk Driving such a Threat to Road Safety? Drunk Driving is one of the biggest threats to Road Safety in South Africa. Research indicates that 50% of people who die on the roads have a blood alcohol concentration above 0.05 gram per 100 millilitres.


Road Safety starts with good Vision


Drunk Driving and the Blood Test

Een gedagte oor “Blood and alcohol toxicology tests – Parliament SA”

  1. I am a forensic analyst at the Pretoria Forensic Chemistry Laboratory. The real problems are not being mentioned by the minister of health as to the reasons for the backlog in Toxicology or the drunken driving cases.
    The real problem is corruption and extremely incompetent bad management.

    There is a general lack of training of analysts or standardized SOP’s or procedures of doing tests and doing things at the forensic laboratories. There is huge plundering of funds and a failure to implement collective agreements for scarce skills and danger allowances etc as well as the OSD resolution leading to demoralized staff. The procurement of instruments is micro managed from the director level down where the director Alida Grove decides to purchase million rand instruments that are totally unsuitable even though she was informed by senior analysts that these instruments were unsuitable! Such as the Randox ammuno assay instruments from a sole supplier in Ireland. This was included in the auditor general report but later covered up.

    The national department of health regularly fail to pay accounts to the city council leading to the services such as water and electricity being cut. As I am typing this today there is no electricity in the building of the Forensic Lab in Visagie street and the emergency diesel generator is running since the council cut the electricity supply due to non payment of accounts!
    Overtime is being abused by the management in Pretoria lab and places such as Durban lab where the managers are claiming overtime meant for production. Overtime, is applied for using the names of the forensic analysts but when the budget gets allocated the managers allow only certain analysts to work overtime as a sort of reward for supporting them and their schemes. The analysts were all supposed to be trained to the point of being technical signatories but the management purposefully prevented this and use the opportunity to say that they need to check and authorize the analysis and cases before they can go out. The managers then claim overtime for this time they say they spent checking the work of the analysts and their cases. This is completely against the public service regulations and managers are not allowed to claim overtime. Some of the managers even claim overtime for hours they were at home saying that they were checking blood alcohol and toxicology cases while at home! This is also not allowed as these legal documents are not allowed to leave the premises of the forensic laboratory. The Director Alida Grove however signs off on the overtime claimed by the managers and allows them to do these illegitimate claims.

    Our Fellow analyst Cordelia Siadira Mabatho is currently suspended and has been for the past two years due to this wrong practice of the managers claiming overtime and this being approved by the director Alida Grove. Also the fact that proper procedures and SOP’s were/are not in place and the laboratory does not have accreditation. The deputy director of the Pretoria Forensic Laboratory Ms Kagiso Tholo was so greedy to submit overtime claims that she decided to be the acting section head for Blood Alcohol when that post was vacated by her friend Cynthia Hans whom got promoted to a Deputy Director in the Durban Blood Alcohol lab despite not meeting the requirements for a qualification of a four year degree in chemistry since Cynthia Hans has only a National Diploma in Analytical Chemistry while the other candidates all had degrees.

    Deputy Director Kagiso Tholo was claiming overtime in the blood alcohol section while she was acting in this lower position as assistant director of the blood alcohol section in Pretoria for so called checking and authorizing the cases on the LIMS system and so greedy was she to submit her overtime claims for this authorizing, which was approved by her director Alida Grove, that she authorized batches of samples analyzed by forensic analyst Cordelia Seadira Mabatho without checking them. Cordelia Seadira Mabatho had not analysed these bllod alcohol samples properly and done the analysis on one GC-HEAD SPACE instrument only, instead of the two whose results need to be compared and corroborate each other. These results went out as authorized and “correct” due to the greediness of the deputy director Kagiso Tholo for submitting overtime claims that she as a senior manager was not allowed to as per the public service regulations.

    The Toxicoly section head assistant director Marga Kinnear also authorized batches of toxicology blood samples that analyst Cordelia Seadira analyzed incompletely and reported that there were insufficient sample for further analysis knowing full well that it was statistically impossible for entire batches of samples to be insufficient for further analysis! This was covered up by the minister and the department.

    There are usually months long shortages of basic consumables and reference standards every year at the Pretoria Forensic Laboratory, while the Johannesburg laboratory which is managed by a bonafide sangoma, Legisi Bongile is said to be even worse.

    The Pretoria forensic laboratory has been declared to be an unsafe working place since 2018 by the National Department of Labour and the head of the lab Kagiso Tholo was served by them with such a notification and list of critical things that needed to be repaired such as burnt electrical wiring hanging from the ceiling etc. The National Department management has simply ignored this notification by the department of labour safety inspectors!

    The chief director Ms Pakiso Ntshidsivani told the forensic analysts at the Pretoria Forensic Laboratory that she was not employed but that she was deployed (ie: ANC cader deployed) when she visited the laboratory in 2015. Pakiso further went on to tell the forensic analyst that she used to be a hospital nursing sister. However when she asked analyst what improvement could be made and was told that basic consumables such as test tubes needed to be ordered in bulk instead of very small batches (orders under R2000) Ms Pakiso Htshidsivani did not know what a test tube was. A basic item that can be identified by any junior nurse!

    Besides the services such as water and electricity to the Forensic Laboratory in Visagie street been cut at regular interval due to non payment of the services the telephones have not been functioning for six months since the beginning of 2019!

    The real problem is cronyism, corruption, the appointment of lowly qualified managers whom all have only a basic entry level diploma as qualification and abuse of public funds by the national department of health and it’s officials.

    Barry Mellor

    Senior Forensic Analyst


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