Saturday, September 30, 2023

An Overwhelmed Morgue. A Look at Why Bodies Are Piling Up

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Along with a high COVID-19 toll number, health officials are also dealing with an overwhelming number of bodies in the morgue at the Princess Margaret Hospital.

The bodies are crowding the mortuary, awaiting collection by family members and local morticians, to be buried.

Minister of Health Renward Wells and Managing Director at Princess Margaret Hospital said they need the space.

“Some persons are using the morgue at PMH as a storage facility for their deceased loved ones.

“The morgue at PMH continues to be stretched to capacity as a result of the delayed collection of loved ones who have passed.

“Some members of the public are opting to wait until restrictions are lessened to collect the bodies of loved ones,” Wells said.

He encouraged the public to arrange with mortuary companies to retrieve loved ones and advised the local mortuary companies to collect bodies that families have paid to be transported to funeral homes.

What’s the capacity of the facility?

Public Hospital Authority Managing Director Catherine Weech said the facility in New Providence has a capacity for 55 bodies but the facility is presently holding nearly 220 bodies.

In Grand Bahama, she said the storage facility has a capacity of 25, but at times, the facility is holding 50 to 75 bodies.

Weech said the authority has instituted a policy to ensure the COVID-19 deaths are separated from the non-related COVID-19 deaths.

Those bodies are housed in an external cooler at the hospital.

An aged-old problem?

The lack of sufficient space at the mortuary is not a new problem.

Back in 2018, former Minister of Health Duane Sands estimated that the morgue had the capacity for 60 bodies.

He lamented the little space left for the storage of bodies as family members at that time, failed to collect bodies of loved ones.

He told Eyewitness News at the time that Bahamians leave the bodies there because they cannot afford an “elaborate” funeral.

This is not a new problem, but a chronic problem, he admitted. He said the country needs a new morgue.

“The need for a new lab that functions more consistently with the needs and service demands of the country are clear…the viewing facilities are simply antiquated and leave much to be desired.”

Sands also proposed an increase and enforcement of storage fees to encourage undertakers to collect the bodies from the morgue.

“We have not been enforcing storage fees and so it is cheaper for the undertaker to leave the body there until they can bury the person. So they don’t incur the cost of storage,” Sands said.

What you should do?

Wells and Weech are asking families to retrieve the bodies to allow for proper management of bodies that must be housed.

The office is opened weekly and families should contact the Medical Records Department for the release of the bodies from the facility.

Wells said failure by morticians to comply will result in legal storage fees being applied.


Featured photo credit: Medical News Today

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