The National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) is the largest diagnostic pathology service in South Africa with the responsibility of supporting the national and provincial health departments in the delivery of healthcare.
The NHLS provides laboratory and related public health services to over 80% of the population through a national network of laboratories. Its specialised divisions include the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, National Institute for Occupational Health, National Cancer Registry and Antivenom Unit.
The NHLS has been in existence for over 100 years (through its beginnings as the South African Institute for Medical Research) and provides pathology services across South Africa for all public health facilities. It is a public agency of government reporting to the Minister of Health and has 7000 employees across 349 pathology laboratories in all branches of pathology.
It provides services, teaching and research in the pathology specialist disciplines (anatomical pathology, clinical chemistry, haematology, microbiology, immunology, virology, genetics and molecular medicine) and also has 3 national institutes covering Communicable Diseases, Occupational Health and Cancer Surveillance. It generates health care waste in the form of collection and processing materials for human biological specimens as well as the waste products from human biological specimens after a diagnosis has been made.
The National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH) is an institute within the NHLS and covers safety, health and environment issues within the NHLS and has been in existence since 1946.
It has a substantial interest in the area of health care waste generation and management from a compliance, occupational health and safety as well as environmental perspective. NIOH is a World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre and International Labour Organisation affiliated information centre.
It has extensive international links with national institutes of occupational health in other middle income and high income countries. NIOH has played a major role in sensitising the different government departments in South Africa as well as at various international forums about workers in the informal economy.