Crowded mortuary cleared of 212 bodies

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pretoria - All 212 unclaimed bodies have been removed from the Gale Street mortuary in Durban, says KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Health Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo.

Dhlomo announced this on Wednesday during his surprise visit to the mortuary which has been in the news for overcrowding, lost bodies and unhygienic conditions.

All bodies removed were of people who died from unnatural causes and were not claimed by their next of kin who may not know of their unfortunate deaths.Some of the bodies had been at the state facility for about two years.

An interdepartmental task team comprising officials from the Health Department and SAPS was established to oversee the clearing of the bodies.

Only 19 bodies, which are still to be identified by families, were left behind including three bodies which were recovered and brought in by the special investigating unit.

Dhlomo acknowledged that everyone involved had to take desperate measures to resolve the situation.

"Burial is our preferred method of body disposal, however the circumstances have compelled us to dispose of the bodies in pauper graves.

"Our service will from this day forward be based on the fundamental principles including respect for the dead, identification of the dead as immediately as possible, responding to the wishes of the family, respect for cultural and religious beliefs and provision of psycho-social support services for the staff," Dhlomo said.