Task team to address mortuary backlogs

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Pretoria - The KwaZulu-Natal Health Department has established an interdepartmental task team to address the problems at some government mortuaries due to overcrowding and unclaimed bodies.

This follows media reports about the Gale Street mortuary being full and bodies being sent to other mortuaries within eThekwini.

Some people also complained about poor service due to staff shortages and unpleasant odours at some government mortuaries particularly in Gale Street, Pinetown, Phoenix and Pietermaritzburg.

Provincial MEC for Health Sibongiseni Dhlomo said the department was aware of the complaints and committed to address some of the problems within a week.

"We know that people complain about 'decomposing' bodies, however the nature of forensic work involves receiving bodies in an unpleasant state and others already in the process of decomposition, hence the complaints.

"What is of critical importance and exacerbating the situation is that our people do not inform the police early if their next of kin has disappeared or presumed dead. This means that we must keep the bodies until the whole identification process has been exhausted," said Dr Dhlomo.

The task team comprises officials from both the Department of Health and the South African Police Service detectives unit.