KZN sets record straight on Phoenix mortuary statistics

Thursday, July 22, 2021
Image: SABC

KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC, Nomagugu Simelane, has refuted widespread reports concerning the number of bodies that are being kept at the Phoenix Medico-Legal Mortuary (MLM).

Contrary to reports that between 300 and 500 bodies are being processed, Simelane said the mortuary, which serves the wider eThekwini area, and not just Phoenix, is currently processing the mortal remains of 128 people.

“These bodies may not necessarily be linked to the civil unrest from last week,” Simelane said.

Speaking at the mortuary on Wednesday afternoon, the MEC revealed that the facility currently has 35 bodies that have not been identified.

She said her department decided to visit the facility to witness first-hand what is happening, following the outcry about the backlog in relation to families, who want the remains of their loved ones who perished during last week’s unrest.

“We were able to get a briefing on what has happened. I do want to indicate that as of this morning, we have a backlog of 128 bodies, but this backlog includes people who were killed or passed away elsewhere in incidents that are not necessarily related to the unrest.

“It also includes people who passed on in the different hospitals within the catchment area of Phoenix.

“Normally, this facility receives about 70 bodies a week, so when you compare the normal figures with what we currently have, you can clearly see that there is a steep increase. However, we are not in a position to indicate that all of those bodies are as a result of unrest,” Simelane said.

The MEC disputed reports that there are more than 300 bodies as a result of the unrest.

“So far, that is not true. It’s 128 bodies that we have received. But also, we cannot necessarily say all of them are as a result of the unrest (sic).”

Families with missing members called to identify bodies

 Simelane called on families who have loved ones that are missing, and have not been able to detect their whereabouts, to come to Phoenix MLM, where they will be assisted with identification of bodies.

“We have 35 bodies in the facility that have not been identified by the families [and] for as long as families do not identify them, we are unable to process them, and can therefore not get post-mortems out.

“We are calling on all the families with people who are missing to come to our facility and identify them.

“I also want to indicate that we have put in place a programme together with the SAPS, whereby the families that are missing people don’t necessarily have to go to their nearest police station. They can just come here to Phoenix mortuary [where] there will be police on site from 7am to 3.30pm.

“For those who have safety concerns, we have an agreement with the SAPS, whereby they can contact General Chirwa on 079 5000 288, who will then facilitate their safe escorting to the facility and back,” Simelane said.

The MEC said due to the backlog caused by the number of additional bodies received, the department has identified and requested a number of pathologists from different facilities to come and assist at Phoenix Medico-Legal Mortuary.

“We are going to be utilising this facility and a few others so that we fast-track the process. We believe that by Friday, we would have concluded the backlog, and will then start with the bodies that have been coming in from Friday moving forward,” Simelane said. –