State-of-the-art Observatory Forensic Pathology Institute nears completion | Western Cape Government


State-of-the-art Observatory Forensic Pathology Institute nears completion

25 April 2024

State-of-the-art Observatory Forensic Pathology Institute nears completion, performed more than 4 700 postmortems in 2023/24 

Today, 25 April 2024, Premier Alan Winde and Western Cape Minister of Health and Wellness, Professor Nomafrench Mbombo, conducted an oversight visit at the R306 million Observatory Forensic Pathology Institute (OFPI) to inspect the progress being made towards its being fully operational.

The OFPI is the first in the country to have:

  • An in-house toxicology laboratory that reduces the waiting time for results.
  • A histopathology laboratory close to the point of collection of the samples.
  • An odontology laboratory.
  • Space included in the design so as to house refrigerated containers, out of sight of the public, in the event of a mass incident.
  • BSL (Biosafety Level) 3 dissection space for contagious or decomposed cases.
  • An observation platform to reduce exposure to South African Police Officers, and thus encouraging increased attendance at postmortems.
  • A teaching and training auditorium (an auditorium looking onto a glassed off dissection table) with audiovisual technology so that the training can be viewed provincially.
  • One-way flow for the families to protect their dignity during a bereavement so that they do not pass back into the facility after a viewing and are led out directly into a bereavement or quiet area.

Noting that there are no local design or operational norms and standards for a facility of this nature in South Africa, a review was undertaken before the end of its practical construction completion in 2021. This process highlighted additional areas that needed to be incorporated in the design in order for the OFPI to deliver exceptional service, teaching and learning experiences. 

Following the completion of this additional scope of work in January 2024, the focus is now on identifying any defects that may exist, extraction issues that became apparent after the operationalisation of the facility, as well as the commissioning of the toxicology, entomology, molecular and osteology laboratories.

Speaking to the importance of investing in health infrastructure as part of the Western Cape Safety Plan, Premier Winde said that, “our healthcare system is made up of a wide range of services which we are constantly striving to improve for our residents. We do this by investing in facilities, such as the OFPI, to ensure they help in offering closure to residents who have lost loved ones.”

“Through the OFPI – which is a critical component of the criminal justice system – we are maintaining high standards to help streamline the efficient delivery of justice in our province. The data these kinds of facilities provide us with can also be put to valuable use in multiple ways: to better inform how we use our resources and, in keeping with the Western Cape Safety Plan, to guide law enforcement deployments to maximum effect making our communities safer and more prosperous.”

“The Western Cape Government has built a world-class facility, right here in this province. I am very proud of this facility. It is an important addition not only to our health system, but also to strengthen our commitment to fight crime. Quality forensics and pathology are critical tools in successful prosecutions. Thank you to everyone who has been involved in working so hard to get this facility up and running,” concluded Premier Winde.

Minister Mbombo emphasised that, “ever since the Department of Health and Wellness absorbed Forensic Pathology Services (FPS) from SAPS in 2006, we have been on a journey to ensure that these services are revitalised and positioned for future demands. The OFPI is an example of this ideal and is a key piece of infrastructure that is being prioritised for final completion, particularly after the decommissioning of the old Salt River Mortuary last year. With this facility having already conducted 4 708 postmortems during the 2023/24 financial year, we look forward to it unlocking its full potential as a first-of-its-kind in South Africa.”