Updated 24 March 2014

National Health Laboratory Service threatens Gauteng, KZN with service withdrawal due to unpaid debts.

South Africa’s largest pathology service may be forced to cease operations in Gauteng and Kwazulu Natal due to non-payment from local government.

The National Health Pathology Service claims the KZN Health department owes it R3 billion while Gauteng’s account is R900 million in arrears, reported the Times.

Kwazulu Natal have not made a payment in three years despite the lab’s services being essential in combating HIV and TB, two of the provinces leading causes of death. The lab also deals with a large volume of cancer-related tests which are essential in diagnosing the illness and informing treatment options.

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The scale of the problem has forced the NHLS to give the provinces a two-week ultimatum. If the accounts are not at least partially settled in that time the lab will withdraw their services until the payment has been made.

These cash-flow problems have affected the NHLS’ ability to repay their own suppliers, and they currently owe one such entity over R100 million. Were this supplier to cease its relationship with the lab, the labs capabilities would be severely compromised.

For its part, the Gauteng department of health has made moves to redress the problem ahead of the deadline. The department paid R77 million last week and plans to have paid up to R200 million by tomorrow.

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The organisation is also responsible for the National Cancer Registry and the production of snake, spider and scorpion anti-venom, reports IOL.

The Kwazulu Natal Health department argue that the reason for non-payment is a dispute over the amount owed. It is unclear whether the department has any plans to pay the NHLS before the two-week deadline expires.

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Sources: TimesLive, IOL, StatsSA


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