Post-mortem examinations have been halted at Magwaza Maphalala (Gale) Street Mortuary, in Durban, because of broken air conditioners.
More than 30 bodies have been awaiting post-mortem since December 31, a source at the mortuary said. Bereaved families have not been able to access the bodies of their loved ones, funeral directors have claimed.
The backlog started after doctors downed instruments on December 31, following the KZN Department of Health’s alleged failure to fix broken air conditioners at the facility. The health department did not respond to e-mailed questions.
Another staff member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the air conditioning units had been out of order since last week.
However, he said all the workers continued with their duties as normal.
Colin Peters, a funeral director at Central Funeral Services, said he had gone to the mortuary yesterday to enquire about a body for one of his clients.
He was, however, told that the post-mortem had not been conducted on the body as the doctors had downed tools.
“It is not so much about how it inconvenienced me, but about how the family was inconvenienced,” Peters said.
“The father (of the deceased) flew from Cape Town hoping to have the funeral yesterday but it could not happen because we were told the story of the air conditioning.”
The father of the deceased did not want to comment.
Logan Chetty, the chairman of the KwaZulu-Natal Funeral Directors Association, said bodies were piling up and funerals were being put on hold.
He blamed the department for not attending to the problem swiftly, saying it should have service providers ready to fix such things.
“We as the public also need to be considerate and know that these things would happen from time to time because this is a big mortuary which operates 24 hours (a day),” he said.
“My only concern is why the department does not fix these things quickly.”
An unpleasant odour and high temperature were evident when a Daily News team arrived at the reception area of the state-run mortuary yesterday.
However, a man who identified himself only as Mr Mkhize said his family was able to identify the body of his son and they had not experienced any problems. “We produced the documents they wanted from us and we were able to see our son’s body,” he said. “We will organise the undertaker to come and collect the body.”
Nombuso Dlamini, who was sitting at the gate of the mortuary, said the only inconvenience she experienced was not having all the required documents.
“They said I need to get something from Home Affairs, so I sent my daughter to go and try to get it,” she said.
Other funeral directors contacted by the Daily News were not aware of the situation saying they had not encountered any difficulties receiving bodies from the mortuary.