Bodies pile up at KZN mortuaries

Police arrested a 53-year-old man in connection with the mutilation of two bodies at a Durban funeral parlour. FILE PICTURE: WILLEM LAW.

Police arrested a 53-year-old man in connection with the mutilation of two bodies at a Durban funeral parlour. FILE PICTURE: WILLEM LAW.

Published Apr 16, 2015

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Durban - Bodies are piling up at mortuaries and hospitals affected by the week-long go-slow by KwaZulu-Natal mortuaries.

The KZN Health Department, however, said that the go-slow by staff at the Magwaza Maphalala (Gale) Street and Stanger mortuaries has thus far not hindered any planned burials and the issues that have been raised by workers were receiving attention.

Workers claimed the provincial department of health had failed to pay money due to them.

They claimed they work in unhygienic conditions with no protective gear like gloves.

Last week the department’s communication head, Sam Mkhwanazi, said they had noted with regret the sign of a go-slow at the Magwaza Maphalala mortuary.

He said the department was working on an arrangement to transfer bodies to other mortuaries around Durban.

It is alleged that there are 60 bodies in Pinetown mortuary and 25 in Gale Street.

A source said bodies were also piling up at certain hospitals and might decompose if they were left for another week.

The Islamic Muslim Burial Society spokesman, Ahmed Paruk, said they had successfully sent a body to Mozambique last week.

Paruk, who has been in the burial business for 20 years, said it was getting harder to have Muslim bodies released.

“We have been inundated with calls to assist but our hands are also tied,” he said.

To minimise the impact of this, the department has been using the services of facility managers who previously worked as forensic officers.

Since the go-slow began last week, mortuary personnel worked overtime to make sure that work was done and that service delivery was not compromised, the department stated.

Facility managers of the affected mortuaries went a step further by telephoning relatives of the deceased who were still in hospital mortuaries asking them to identify those who were due to be buried over the weekend.

All bodies that were identified by relatives and requested for burial were ready for the families to bury.

The Department said it was not aware of any family who could not bury their loved ones because of the “go-slow”, the department said.

It was not true that workers’ salaries were downgraded. Instead, in 2010, their salaries were significantly increased.

Employee representative, the Public and Allied Workers Union of SA, provincial secretary, Halalisani Gumede, said the impasse dated to 2006 when the department took over the mortuaries from the police service.

Dr Imran Keeka, DA spokesman on health, said people who were already dealing with strong emotions after the loss of their loved ones, should not be further subjected to emotional abuse from delays, for whatever reason, at mortuaries and facilities.

Daily News

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