S. Africa AIDS Corpses
Piling Up In Hospitals

By Bheko Madlala
Daily News - SA

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 in corpses.
This morbid picture was painted by provincial Health Minister Zweli Mkhize in the provincial legislature in Pietermaritzburg yesterday.
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. 0



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