- Corpses are piling up in provincial hospitals as overcrowded
mortuaries buckle under the strain of the HIV/Aids pandemic, resulting
in some bodies being left on the floor and others being mixed up.
- Many hospitals, whose mortuaries are not suitable for
storing bodies, have had to increase staff to cope with the rapid increase
- This morbid picture was painted by provincial Health
Minister Zweli Mkhize in the provincial legislature in Pietermaritzburg
- Mkhize was responding to a newspaper report which highlighted
the problem of corpses that were reportedly being prepared on the floor
for paupers' burials at Northdale Hospital in Pietermaritzburg.
- Mkhize said the mortuary services at provincial hospitals,
which were bursting at the seams, had taken a severe strain because of
the rapid increase in HIV-related illnesses and deaths.
- He said the provincial department of health had done
a health facilities audit that revealed a depressing picture of how a number
of hospital buildings, including mortuaries, were found to be unsuitable.
- Responding to the Northdale case, Mkhize said: "On
November 11 there were more than 40 bodies at the mortuary. The mortuary
has 44 shelves with only 34 usable trays. The other 10 trays are located
very high up and thus are not usable for adult bodies.
- "On average, there are seven deaths a day, and bodies
are kept in the mortuary for about 14 days. This is due to the administrative
difficulties of tracing relatives. Quite often the information in patients'
files has a vague address or the informal or rural settlements, which most
patients come from. This poses a challenge for locating homes."
- Mkhize said other hospitals in the province had experienced
problems of a different nature, such as the Taylor Bequest Hospital where
there was a mix-up of bodies. This was due to overcrowding where a 12-shelf
mortuary had about 25 bodies wedged together.
- Mkhize said the overall picture of mortuaries in the
province was fair.
- "The management of mortuary services has always
been a problem for the department of health.
- "The poverty situation compels some families to
put their relatives in hospital when death seems imminent."
- Mkhize also apologised to relatives for any inconvenience
caused by overcrowding.