Question NW773 to the Minister of Health

Share this page:

12 April 2024 - NW773

Profile picture: Clarke, Ms M

Clarke, Ms M to ask the Minister of Health

What is the (a) total number of (i) toxicologists and (ii) analysts employed at each of the Forensic Chemistry Laboratories (FCLs), (b) vacancy rate at each of the FCLs and (c) average number of tests analysed (i) daily and (ii) monthly at each of the FCLs as at the latest specified date?


a) According to the NHLS,

(i) the FCLs do not have toxicologists specifically appointed in their establishments. Instead, FCLs have analytical chemists who also perform the toxicology analyses. They are known as Forensic Analysts and are able to do toxicology tests because they possess and use the same skills / equipment to do the work as a toxicologist would do.

(ii) Analysts employed at each of the FCLs as follows:


Number of Forensic Analysts

Cape Town

Twenty-four (24) Forensic analysts in total. Of the twenty-four (24), eight (8) analysts are in the toxicology section.


Thirty-six 36 Forensic analysts in total. Of the thirty-six (36), twenty-nine (29) are in the toxicology section.


Twenty-five (25) Forensic Analysts in total. Of the twenty-five (25), eleven (11) are in the toxicology section.


Eight (8) Forensic Analysts in total. Durban FCL will expand its service offering to include toxicology testing as soon as the laboratory has relocated to a larger and more suitable building.


b) The vacancy rates are as follows: Cape Town (4%), Durban (20%), Johannesburg (2%) and Pretoria (28%). In the calculation of the vacancy rate for the Pretoria FCL, ten new positions were included in the total staff establishment. These ten new positions were created to establish the new toxicology section at the Pretoria FCL. The new positions have been advertised and recruitment processes are underway.

c) (i) and (ii) The table below indicates the number of toxicology samples that were completed over the three months from 01 December 2023 to 29 February 2024 across the three laboratories that deliver toxicology testing services. The table also shows the monthly and daily averages achieved over this period. As indicated in the paragraphs below the table, the daily number of toxicology samples completed does not indicate productivity in the laboratories as tests run concurrently and completion periods vary.


Total completed over 3 months

Monthly average

Daily average

Cape Town












Toxicology cases are allocated in batches of 15 cases per analyst per month. When cases are received for toxicology testing, the requesting pathologist does not always specify a specific substance to be tested for detection and quantification. Most cases that are received, require a general “screen” for various recreational or illicit drugs, pharmaceutical drugs, poisons, or other substances. Once a substance is detected, additional tests are required to confirm the presence of the substance and to quantify the amount of the substance that was detected.

If a new or rare (unusual) substance is detected through screening tests, a standard to confirm the substance must be procured. Some standards are procured from international suppliers and require special permits to be imported, resulting in delays in the process.

Each toxicology case that is registered in the laboratory may include a varying number of biological specimens that were taken during the autopsy and each specimen may require to be tested more than once or on different sets of instruments, depending on the test requirements. In the pre-analytic stage, specimens may require specialised preparation, depending on the tests that will be conducted.

As a result, it is difficult to quantify the number of toxicology tests that are processed in a day as tests run concurrently and completion periods differ vastly between cases.


Source file