Durban - Police officers are being forced to collect bodies from crime scenes and drop them off at local mortuary offices due to an ongoing go-slow by officials from the Department of Health’s Magwaza Maphalala (ex-Gale) Street Medico-Legal Mortuary.
Sydenham SAPS Community Policing Forum chairperson, Satish Dhupelia, said they had had a number of cases where police officers had had to drive to the mortuary and leave their SAPS vehicle in order to take a mortuary van to a crime scene to collect a body and deliver it to the mortuary.
“Once they have handed the body over, they can take their SAPS vehicle and resume their duties. This is quite frustrating as it leaves them unable to perform their other duties,” he said.
Dhupelia said often at least two or three officers were taken out of their regular duties in order to perform duties which should be undertaken by pathology officials.
A police officer, who asked not to be named, said on Friday police were alerted to two separate cases of culpable homicide. On both occasions they had to collect the morgue van in order to drop off the bodies at the mortuary.
“This takes time. There are days when our officers are pulled from their duties and one will have to stand off at a scene while two more collect and deliver the body,” he said.
Last month, The Mercury reported that officials took more than six hours to attend to a hit-and-run incident on the R102 near Gateway.
The community was outraged after the victim’s family had to stand alongside the busy road and guard his lifeless body while waiting for a mortuary van to arrive.
In another incident, a Reservoir Hills man’s body was only removed by mortuary staff two days after he had died.
Spokesperson for the KwaZulu-Natal Medical Advocacy Group, Meran, Mary de Haas, said it was the job of forensic mortuary workers to collect bodies since the service had been handed to the department.
“These workers must be disciplined and if they fail to do their jobs after disciplinary steps, they must be fired. This has been going on for too long and the failure of department to deal with these ill-disciplined, ill-qualified workers is absolutely disgraceful. If you are employed to do a job and you keep refusing to do it you usually get sacked,” she said.
Spokesperson for the Department of Health in KZN, Noluthando Nkosi urged police to alert district management if there were delays.
She said the department endeavoured to collect mortal human remains and manage them accordingly, with due care and respect for the dignity of both the deceased and the public.
The collection of these remains was historically performed by SAPS, until the department took over.
“In cases where the arrival of Forensic Pathology Services at a death scene may be delayed, for whatever reason, the SAPS are urged to alert management of the district concerned, who will then implement contingency measure,” Nkosi said.
She believed there would be significant improvements to the management and functioning of Forensic Pathology Services at eThekwini District once the imminent move from the Magwaza Maphalala Street Medico-Legal Mortuary was concluded.