Contaminated blood – including samples infected with HIV and drug-resistant TB – were spilled on the floor of the National Health Laboratory foyer at the Provincial Hospital in Port Elizabeth during strike action this week.
This came to light after the National Education Health & Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) called off their strike yesterday after signing a settlement agreement.
The spill site had to be cleaned up and disinfected by senior technicians as a countermeasure to prevent the infection of others.
Professor Shabir Madhi, acting CEO of the NHLS, said bio-hazardous waste, used petri dishes and completed blood culture samples had been spilled at the laboratory in Port Elizabeth.
The samples were in a biohazard container awaiting disposal.
He said it was unclear which of the samples were hazardous.
“Senior technologists and the pathologist cleared up the mess and disinfected the area.
“If we can gather sufficient evidence, disciplinary measures will be taken against offenders.”
Madhi said test results of patients would not be affected as the material used in the foyer attack was for work already processed and was samples that were to be discarded.
Meanwhile, Zola Saphetha, Nehawu general secretary, said yesterday the strike had been called off.
“The settlement is a victory for workers in that parties agreed to a salary increase of 7.3% effective from 1 April for employees,” he said.
Saphetha said that they had also agreed that gardening, cleaning and security services would be insourced by the NHLS from September 1.
“As Nehawu, we are happy with the results of the strike and once again would like to applaud our members for remaining resolute and militant when faced with the daunting task of struggling for what is due to them,” Saphetha said.