Durban - By the end of March, the problematic Gale Street mortuary is expected to be closed.
This is according to a report that was presented at the eThekwini Municipality’s final full council meeting of the year.
The report was presented after provincial Health Department officials recently made a presentation to the city’s executive committee members on the challenges facing Gale Street mortuary and the process to close it at its current location in Umbilo.
According to the report, the mortuary services will be moved to Phoenix mortuary, with the process expected to be completed by March 30.
The forensic pathology services will be located to other centres in Durban and on the South Coast.
The Gale Street mortuary has been the source of complaints from workers and bereaved families for several years.
Workers have said the conditions at the morgue were unhygienic, and there was a recent dispute regarding overtime pay.
The announcement comes shortly after members of the Health Portfolio Committee visited the mortuary and announced they would be recommending to the department that it be closed.
They said it was in an unacceptable condition and was a health hazard to the community that lived in the area.
The committee previously said that when Gale Street was built the area was industrial, but it was now residential.
“The Gale Street mortuary has brought eThekwini into disrepute,” commented one of the councillors during yesterday’s meeting.
He said while they agreed that the mortuary should be moved, they were concerned about the impact that would have on residents.
“People are going to travel much further and pay much more to retrieve the remains of their loved ones. There are about 60 undertakers operating there, and they are going to now raise their rates.”
The report said the mortuary had ageing infrastructure, given that it was built approximately 20 years ago, which could not cope with the “constantly increasing number of autopsies”.
Its operations also contravened several laws including the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Challenges included the constant smell, constant clogging of the drainage system at Gale Street, and a fly and rat infestation.
The secretary-general of the National Funeral Practitioners Association of SA and Save Gale Street Mortuary Committee chairperson, Nkosentsha Shezi, said while they understood that the mortuary had several problems, they were against its closure.
He said that Gale Street mortuary was centrally located in Durban which made it easier for funeral practitioners to provide services to the community.
“There has not been a broad consultation with the communities that are going to be affected, and the funeral directors.
“It seems a decision has just been taken by the department to close it,” he said.