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Corpses deteriorating at Ga-Rankuwa State mortuary as emergency generator fails repeatedly

Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi said the matter of the dysfunctional emergency generator has been escalated. File Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi said the matter of the dysfunctional emergency generator has been escalated. File Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 27, 2022


Pretoria - Gauteng MEC for Health, Nomathemba Mokgethi, said there was no “recorded complaint” regarding decomposing bodies received, even though the Ga-Rankuwa state mortuary has had a persistent power problem and is affected by recurrent power outages.

On the other hand, the DA in Gauteng insists relatives have been left traumatised as corpses deteriorate at the state mortuary whenever there is an Eskom power cut and there has not been a functional emergency generator since February this year.

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In a written Gauteng Legislature response seen by IOL, Mokgethi tells DA Gauteng spokesperson on health Jack Bloom that “it was unfortunate that the back-up generator could not kick-start and a call was made to the DID [Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development] on February 26, reporting the incident”.

Mokgethi said the generator was functional on February 23, when the facility “encountered electricity blackout”, and the issue was reported to Eskom. She added that Eskom officials came to the facility but the matter was not resolved.

“Families were informed through the word of mouth of all these challenges and that bodies are transferred to Pretoria FPS [Forensic Pathology Service] and they should expect some delays due to electricity blackout, and were also advised to follow the departmental complaint procedure should they wish so,” Mokgethi submitted.

She said on February 27, the bodies were temporarily transferred and stored at the Pretoria FPS facility pending repairs to the emergency generator and the Eskom substation.

After repairs to the substation and the emergency generator, Mokgethi said the bodies were returned to the Ga-Rankuwa FPS from the Pretoria FPS on March 1.

“On March 5 in the evening, electricity went off and the back-up generator failed to start. The DID chief artisan was called and it was reported that the generator fuel tank needs to be cleaned. On March 10, the generator was cleaned and tested and it transpired that its alternator needed to be replaced,” said Mokgethi.

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More than 15 days later, Mokgethi said the DID officials attended the generator “without a new alternator but made use of the old alternator”.

She said the lack of proper freezing of bodies stemmed from the dysfunctional emergency generator.

“A dysfunctional emergency generator has contributed largely to the situation, including frequent load shedding and electricity reductions in the Ga-Rankuwa area. In case of load shedding, bodies are temporarily stored in freezer storage and taken out early in the morning for post-mortem,” said Mokgethi.

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Bloom said the root of the problem is “poor service from the Gauteng Infrastructure Development Department which is responsible for the generators at Gauteng’s eight provincial mortuaries which do autopsies for all unnatural deaths”.

Despite the pressing need for the alternator, Mokgethi told the Gauteng Legislature that in April, the Gauteng DID said that they were having “a challenge of getting purchase order approval as some of the approving officials were on suspension.”

Currently, Gauteng DID officials are called on to start the generator manually if the electricity goes off.

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Bloom said funeral operators in the area have complained that bodies from this mortuary come to them in a poor state, which upsets relatives.

“This distressing saga highlights once again the necessity of the DA’s call to shut down the dysfunctional and corrupt Gauteng Infrastructure Development Department and devolve maintenance to health facilities who will do a better job,” said Bloom.