Durban — The IFP in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature has called on Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane to provide a detailed plan and clear timeline to address the issue of unclaimed bodies in government mortuaries.
IFP KZN health spokesperson Ncamisile Nkwanyana said the party believes that respecting the living means respecting the dead, too. A deceased person’s remains also need to be treated with necessary dignity and respect.
“It is unfathomable that some unclaimed corpses date back to 2017. It is reported that around 1 509 bodies are unclaimed, which is in violation of health regulations and is posing a serious health hazard to mortuary staff,” Nkwanyana said.
She said that this is most prevalent in Fort Napier Mortuary in Pietermaritzburg.
“For mortuaries to grapple with the burden of storing dead bodies for so many years indicates that incompetence is involved and somewhere, somehow, someone is failing to perform his/her allotted duties,” Nkwanyana said.
“It is high time for MEC Simelane to provide plans to address this issue, which deserves an urgent solution. She must take the public into her confidence about these delays by the Health Department.”
Nkwanyana said that according to the National Health Act (2003) Regulations Regarding the General Control of Human Bodies, Tissue, Blood, Blood Products and Gametes, “The body of a deceased person that is not buried, or claimed for burial within 30 days after the death of that person by the by spouse, partner, major child, parent, guardian, major brother or major sister in the specific order mentioned or bona fide friend of the deceased, shall be at the disposal of the health officer in whose area the body is.”
“We urge families to claim bodies of their loved ones so that the number of unclaimed bodies in mortuaries can decrease,” Nkwanyana added.
On Tuesday, DA shadow deputy minister of health Madeleine Hicklin said the party calls on Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla and Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramakgopa to urgently address the pending disaster Stage 6 load shedding could have on the State mortuaries by providing them with emergency generators and diesel to keep the fridges cold; and for the provincial Departments of Health to expedite the identification of bodies to free up space in their overcrowded mortuaries.
Earlier this month, FF Plus spokesperson on health, Philip van Staden said that according to a parliamentary question to Phaahla, “There are currently, due to a number of reasons, 4 045 unclaimed corpses held at state morgues in South Africa, which is in violation of the relevant health regulation and creates a serious health hazard.”
Van Staden said: “Measures should urgently be implemented to prevent this problem from escalating any further. Provision must immediately be made to adapt the capacity of morgues to accommodate the numbers to ward off a crisis.”
He said that the current situation amounts to a violation of regulation 180, section 10, of the National Health Act, which determines that a person must be buried within 30 days of their death.
He also said that in cases where there is no family or where they cannot afford a funeral, the government must give the deceased a pauper's burial.
“Information received by the FF Plus indicates that problems with the state making payments to undertakers often result in funerals not taking place, which leads to backlogs,” Van Staden said.
“At the moment it seems that talks between the forensic pathological services, local municipalities and the police have not yet yielded a solution to this problem.
“Existing legislation on this will most probably have to be amended and all stakeholders in the industry should be involved in the process,” Van Staden said.
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