Strike hits bereaved as mortuaries fail to process the dead

2010-08-30 00:00

THE ongoing public sector strike has also hit bereaved families and funeral parlours as they were unable to have bodies of deceased people released from government mortuaries last week.

Induduzo Funeral Home in Pietermaritzburg said it was forced to bury 10 bodies on credit this weekend as bereaved families could not get death certificates from the Department of Home Affairs in order to claim from their funeral policies.

Induduzo manager Themba Njilo said the whole of last week was chaotic as family members could not get assistance at the mortuaries and Home Affairs offices.

“At the beginning of the week no postmortem was conducted, but the situation improved as the week progressed,” said Njilo.

Musa Dumisa of Celani Funeral Service in Umlazi, south of Durban, said a number of families were forced to postpone their funeral services.

“We could not get bodies out of government mortuaries. Also, Home Affairs had a big problem. As a result, people who were supposed to have their funeral last weekend, had to postpone it for this weekend,” he said.

“The Department of Home Affairs even encourages people to go to its offices before 8 am, before strikers arrive to disrupt operations.

“In some hospitals senior managers had to leave their offices to work in mortuaries. It was a real chaos,” said Dumisa.

A government mortuary employee at the Alexandra Road police station said there was no one working, which meant bereaved families were unable to access bodies.

He said postmortems were also not done.

“We cannot work because government does not want to provide us with what we want [8,6% increment and R1 000 housing allowance]. Today there was only one person working, and he also left early,” said the employee.

He said mortuary vans bringing bodies to the mortuary were accompanied by police officers for fear of being attacked.

“There are people who could not get their bodies, which are now piling up at the mortuary,” said the employee.

Health spokesperson Chris Maxon confirmed that the strike has contributed to the delay in releasing bodies.

“The strike is there and it has affected every sphere of the government.

“Strikers include those who work with pathologists to conduct postmortems. But the situation has since improved as we had to bring in people who are doing other jobs to help,” said Maxon.

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