This comes after grieving families waited more than a week for post-mortems to be conducted on loved ones.
Ahmed Paruk, the head of the Undertakers Forum, claimed the mortuary was short-staffed and this had caused a backlog.
“It has been 18 months and 13 posts have not been filled because the Department of Health has no funding,” he said. “The existing staff are not prepared to work extra hours to reduce the backlog because there are no funds to pay overtime.”
The funeral of Saiershen Pillay, a private security officer at Alpha Alarms, who was shot dead on Beach Road in Isipingo on August 3, had to be postponed.
His father, Warrant Officer Dean Pillay, said: “His funeral was scheduled for last Tuesday, but the mortuary let us down. I begged for my son’s remains be sent to the Phoenix or Pinetown mortuaries for a post-mortem but they refused. I was prepared to pay R40 000 for a private post-mortem. I eventually wrote to the MEC for Health for his intervention and soon thereafter the process sped up.”
The funeral was held on Thursday.
He said the staff’s concerns over their wage and employment conditions negatively affected families in mourning. Pillay said he intended pursuing legal action against the staff and the department.
Julian Reddy, 32, died at Addington Hospital on August 3 and his funeral was held on Tuesday (August 13).
Rocky Naidoo, a family spokesperson and community activist, said Reddy had been missing and his family located him at the hospital in mid-July.
“He had sustained severe head injuries. It took the Gale Street Mortuary three days to pick up his body. The family was told the post-mortem would be conducted by August 8 and funeral arrangements were made. While the mourners were at the church, they were told the post-mortem was not completed.”
He said the breaking point was when the post-mortem case numbers were mixed up. The emotional effects, said Naidoo, were damaging.
“The first blow was dealing with the fact that Julian was missing. The second was finding him in the hospital. The third was dealing with his death and the funeral.”
Brenton Moodley, of Pinetown Funeral Services, said the delays had been an ongoing problem since June.
“They are supposed to work on a first come, first served basis. The delays can go on for a week because the staff decides which bodies to give priority to. This is only happening at the Gale Street Mortuary.”
He said the post-mortems for unnatural deaths (murders and accidents) were given preference in Pinetown and Phoenix because they were “mindful of people’s religious beliefs”.
“Families are already traumatised and to run back and forth for the release of the body puts them under pressure.”
Dhayalan Moodley, who runs a funeral parlour, said: “We have raised concerns with the department but nothing came of it.
“I had a family wait for almost two weeks and the post-mortem was done on Monday, despite them telling the staff about their religious beliefs and the rituals that needed to be done.”
Logan Chetty, of the KZN Funeral Directors Association, said: “The confusion and delays are a result of the employees not following the rules.”
Noluthando Khumalo, spokesperson for the department in KZN, said there was no go-slow at the Gale Street Mortuary.
“However, there has been an influx of bodies arriving over the past six weeks, hence the delays in some cases.
“The department requests that the community please bear with them in instances where other state agencies are involved, especially with regard to forensic cases.”