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Eskom power outages blamed for dead bodies not frozen at state mortuary

Gauteng Health MEC Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

Gauteng Health MEC Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 27, 2022


Pretoria - Constant power outages implemented by Eskom have been blamed for dead bodies that are not properly frozen at Ga-Rankuwa state mortuary and released in a bad condition to the bereaved families.

The disheartening state of affairs at the government mortuary was painted by the DA MPL Jack Bloom, who recently inquired from the Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi about steps taken by her department to remedy the situation.

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Bloom, who posed written questions to Mokgethi at the Gauteng legislature, claimed some funeral operators have complained that bodies from the state mortuary were brought to them in a poor state and caused more grief to the affected relatives.

Mokgethi, however, denied that there was a record of a decomposed body that had been received.

This, she said, was despite the fact that “the facility had an incident of an electricity blackout due to the Eskom substation that collapsed on February 26 2022”.

Mokgethi said: “It was so unfortunate that the back-up generator could not kick start and a call was made to the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development (DID) on February 26 2022 reporting the incident and got reference number.”

She said the generator was functional on February 23 2022 when the facility encountered an electricity blackout which was reported to Eskom.

According to her, the power utility came to the facility but the problem was not solved with no further explanation.

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

She also cited other incidents of power outages, which affected the functioning of the mortuary.

In the event of the blackouts, she said, bodies were temporarily transferred and stored at the FPS facility pending repairs to the emergency generator and repairs to the Eskom substation.

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“On February 28 2022 at approximately 16h00, Eskom came to the substation and electricity was restored however the generator was still not running. On the same day, in the evening or after hours DID employees arrived and attended to the generator. It started and was switched off,” she said.

Quizzed about the causes of any lack of proper freezing of bodies, Mokgethi said: “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.”

She said the facility has been operating without a functional emergency generator since February this year.

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Delays in fixing the problem were attributed to the DID Tshwane regional office, which was still awaiting “approval for the appointment of a contractor by the provincial DID supply chain management unit”.

Bloom said: “Relatives are traumatised as bodies deteriorate at the Ga-Rankuwa state mortuary whenever there’s an Eskom power cut as there has been no functional emergency generator since February this year.”

According to him, the funeral operators often complained that bodies from the 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 DID and devolve maintenance to health facilities who will do a better job” he said.

Pretoria News