Morgue strike ‘unfair’

2017-11-28 13:45
Mala and Dennis Rajah outside the Fort Napier mortuary where forensic pathology officers embarked on a strike on Monday.

Mala and Dennis Rajah outside the Fort Napier mortuary where forensic pathology officers embarked on a strike on Monday. (Nokuthula Khanyile)

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Several bereaved families have spoken out after a strike at Fort Napier mortuary resulted in them not being able to fetch the bodies of their loved ones.

Autopsies at the facility ground to a halt on Monday as the forensic pathology assistants embarked on a strike over “poor working conditions”.

Families were also not being allowed to identify loved ones at the mortuary.

Outside the mortuary office, Mala and Dennis Rajah pleaded with the officials to release the body of their uncle in time for his funeral today. Late on Monday, Mala told The Witness that it was unclear if the funeral will actually take place today.

Their uncle died on Sunday night and was due for burial today in accordance with their religion.

“According to our custom, a person must be buried as soon as possible. We have received no answer from the mortuary. We have family members who have been calling us to ask when we are holding the funeral,” she said.

Mala said on Monday that they were unable to get assistance from pathologists after the protest late on Monday.

“There is a pathologist on duty, but we have been told work cannot be done without the help of the forensic pathology officers.”

The families said they were given no indication about when the bodies of their loved ones would be released.

“We are mourning and we have so many things to do and they are inconveniencing us.

“We are dealing with the loss and to now deal with this is frustrating. They need to sort this out and not compromise on service delivery,” said Dennis.

Another family had travelled from Richmond to move the body of a member from the government facility to a private mortuary.

A relative, who did not want to be named, said: “We have lost someone and now we have to endure this wait.

“We are very disappointed by this because preparing for the funeral can be a tedious process

“When we got here this morning, we were told that work had ground to a halt as staff were on strike. They didn’t even allow us to move the body,” said the relative.

Another family from Lesotho who had come to identify the body of their loved one were not allowed to enter.

“I don’t care what their issues are internally. It shouldn’t affect us. There are other ways of dealing with the challenges they are facing internally without affecting us,” said the upset family member.

The disgruntled staff, who held a meeting inside the facility, refused to work. They demanded that the district manager be summoned to the facility.

“It is a distasteful and unhealthy environment for anyone to work in.

“We are not going to do any work here today. We want the district manager to be summoned here so she can come and see the poor working conditions we have to endure. We don’t even have a proper working air conditioner. We are getting sick and no one cares. We have been raising these matters and it’s time we took serious action,” said one staff member.

KZN Health Department spokesperson Agiza Hlongwane said the department has noted the disruption of service delivery at Pietermaritzburg Medico-Legal Mortuary due to the actions of certain staff members.

“The department is aware of the issues raised by staff, and is attending to them where feasible.

“The department wishes to convey its most sincere apologies to all families that have been affected by this situation, and is confident that ongoing engagement with the relevant labour representatives will soon result in an amicable solution, so that operations at the facility can return to normal,” he said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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