FILE PHOTO: Health workers wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), handle the coffin with the body of Prof. Charles Kariuki who died due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a crematorium in Nairobi, Kenya July 20, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Health workers wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), handle the coffin with the body of Prof. Charles Kariuki who died due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a crematorium in Nairobi, Kenya July 20, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya/File Photo

Frustration as undertakers struggle to cope as bodies pile up during second wave

By Chevon Booysen, Vernon Mchunu Time of article published Dec 31, 2020

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Cape Town - Local funeral undertakers say they are under severe pressure as a result of hospital backlogs of bodies released to them.

An undertaker from Khayelitsha, who asked that his identity be withheld, said backlogs were particularly being experienced at Tygerberg Hospital, with notification of death forms running out.

“This is a very challenging and concerning situation. We have undertakers who have been waiting for days to have up to six bodies released by the hospital as the hospital is experiencing backlogs.

“What’s worse is that there is a problem in the supply chain as well, when we cannot even get the BI-1663 forms (notification of death), as the books are full and there are no more at the hospital, so we have to wait even longer,” the undertaker said.

Adding to the challenge were bodies that had to be transported to other provinces being delayed even further.

“We are stuck at Tygerberg for hours with grieving families who are awaiting answers about their loved ones so they can make the necessary arrangements. It’s a very frustrating experience for both funeral services as well as the families of the deceased.

“These bodies are not embalmed during the time they are at hospital mortuaries, with many of them having to be transported to other provinces.

“What will happen to that body by the time it reaches the funeral parlour? The whole process is delayed as a result of the hospital backlog,” he said.

Tygerberg Hospital spokesperson Laticia Pienaar said: “Tygerberg management is aware of the situation and wishes to express our deepest sympathy to all the families concerned that have been affected by the delays.

“Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond the hospital’s control and a higher than usual number of deaths at the hospital, there were delays in the process during the last few days. In association with Department of Home Affairs, there have been measures put in place to expedite the process. We apologise for any inconvenience caused,” said Pienaar.

Meanwhile, as the Covid-19 related death toll continues to spike in eThekwini and surrounding areas, the municipality is facing a looming disaster due to lack of burial space.

Funeral parlours are also under pressure from bereaved families who want to bury their loved ones urgently.

Funeral mogul Goodman Ncanda, of the Ncanda funeral group, said that in his 17-year career he had never buried so many people in such a short time.

“During the second wave of Covid-19, I have had to bury an unprecedented 60 bodies in one day,” he said.

Adding to the problem, said Ncanda, was the fact that Home Affairs offices were crowded with people applying for death certificates and burial orders.

“The number of deaths is growing fast. Home Affairs is having to deal with much higher volumes of applicants. The situation has reached a scale of untenable proportions,” he said,

Head of eThekwini’s parks, recreation and culture department, Thembinkosi Ngcobo, said: “In my entire career spanning over 20 years, being responsible for cemeteries and crematoria, I have never been under the kind of pressure like we have been having in the past two to three weeks.”

Cape Times

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