Hospital man in burial scam

2008-12-12 00:00

A SUSPENDED senior employee of Northdale Hospital in Pietermaritzburg who is attached to the mortuary section may be charged with fraud as the Commercial Crime Unit investigates claims for paupers’ burials that never took place.

The scam, which is alleged to have been going on for a couple of years, has allegedly defrauded the state of a vast sum of money.

The 41-year-old suspect from Northdale, who was promoted to a management position in 2006, was suspended on November 18, and the matter was later referred to the commercial crime unit.

He cannot be named as he is yet to be charged.

The hospital has also barred him from its premises to prevent him from interfering with witnesses.

About eight other employees at the mortuary, who reported to him, were transferred to other departments within the hospital on Monday.

“After families had claimed bodies of their loved ones from the hospital’s mortuary, he would submit to the hospital that the bodies had been buried by the state, and fraudulently claim money from the state on behalf of private funeral companies [contracted by the Health Department].

“We believe that he has claimed hundreds of thousands of rands from the state,” said a source close to the hospital.

Both the Health Department and police have confirmed that the Commercial Crimes Unit is investigating the matter.

Police spokeswoman Inspector Joey Jeevan said police are also looking at the allegation that the suspect has an accomplice, who works at a funeral company in Pietermaritzburg.

Health spokesman Leon Mbangwa also confirmed that the suspected fraudster has been suspended.

However, when contacted about the matter, the suspect said that he was only told that he had been suspended for “irregularities” that were not explained in his suspension letter handed to him on November 18.

“I have written two letters to the management [of the hospital] demanding that they explain the irregularities they are charging me with,” said the employee.

The suspect said that he is concerned that while his job hangs in the balance, the hospital is reluctant to provide clarity about the charges against him so that he can defend himself.

The suspect said that he recently returned to his job after he was admitted to hospital for the month of October. He said he was suffering from stress, bronchitis and a chest infection. To his shock, on November 18 he got the suspension letter. He was given three days to oppose the suspension, which he could not do as he did not understand the allegations, he said.

Hospersa, which represents the suspended manager, said that it too is in the dark as to the reasons for the suspension.

Hospersa shop steward Collin Adimulan said they were unaware of any irregularities in the mortuary.

In response to the employee’s letter requesting for clarity, the hospital manager, Z.S.I. Ndwandwe, declined to provide details, saying they would only be made available when the investigation is over.

Since all employees in the mortuary section were also removed to other departments it is alleged that the mortuary is operating with casual workers who were recruited from outside the hospital.

Police spokesman Senior Superintendent Henry Budhram said police are still tracing the families of the deceased whose names were used to commit the fraud.

“The investigation is very complex and arrests will only take place after all statements have been obtained and the necessary evidence secured,” said Budhram.

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