A mortuary in Cape Town. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency/ANA
Durban- The Health Department says it is working on resolving the issue of bodies piling up at state mortuaries across the KwaZulu-Natal.

This follows complaints from grieving families, some of whom have been waiting for months to receive relatives’ bodies.

Halalisani Gumede, provincial secretary of the Public and Allied Workers’ Union of SA, said mortuary staff were overwhelmed by the number of bodies to be processed. He said some had been at the morgues for more than five months.

“These issues were made worse because some of the bodies came from different parts of the province and it would take a long time before the body was identified,” he said.

Gumede said reports of a go-slow were not true.

“The backlog was also complicated by people’s religious beliefs, where they wanted to bury loved ones quickly at the expense of bodies that have been waiting for a long time,” he said.

Gumede said the lack of staff and lack of overtime also played a role.

Earlier this month, the Daily News reported that the Magwaza Maphalala (Gale) Street mortuary was facing a backlog which led to many irate people not being able to bury their relatives.

Rocky Naidoo, a Chatsworth community activist who has been helping people deal with mortuary problems, said he doubted the situation would get better soon.

“Staff at mortuaries often have a negative attitude and poor work ethic when it comes to performing their duties. This means people who come from around the country have to wait for long periods, and this becomes costly for their funeral arrangements.”

Naidoo said people wanted speedy service not only for religious reasons, but to minimise trauma for grieving families.

“People need to be treated with dignity. Vacancies within mortuaries need to be filled as soon as possible,” he said.

Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu acknowledged there were problems but said the department had been ironing out the issues.

“We understand there have been a number of challenges, particularly in the Forensic Pathology Services unit at Magwaza Maphalala Medico-Legal Mortuary, along the lines of a go-slow.

“The department is working to resolve those challenges.

“The head of department, with other senior managers, went there and assessed the facility and is working on the solutions,” said Simelane-Zulu.

She lauded forensic staff who had had to deal with a large number of fatalities from accidents last weekend, which claimed at least 25 lives.

Daily News