50 bodies stuck at Pinetown mortuary for months - DA

KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo. (Themba Mngomezulu, Gallo Images, Sowetan)
KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo. (Themba Mngomezulu, Gallo Images, Sowetan)

Durban - Fifty bodies have been lying in the Pinetown mortuary since January this year, without post-mortems being conducted on them, the Democratic Alliance in KwaZulu-Natal revealed on Wednesday.

The bodies, which have also not been claimed by relatives, are now in an advanced state of decomposition, DA KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson on health, Dr Imraan Keeka, said in a statement.

"This has been confirmed to the DA via two sources, one based at the mortuary and another from a facility that will be possibly involved in completing the post-mortems over the next few days," said Keeka.

Keeka said the findings come amid speculation that the backlog has been caused by the mortuary's resident pathologist being frequently absent.

"According to both sources, the KZN's health department supposedly intends bringing in forensic pathologists from other facilities to assist with the backlog," he said.

It is also not the first time that there have been problems at the Pinetown mortuary.

READ: KZN health MEC to personally perform post-mortems

'Will come back to haunt him'

In March this year, mortuary workers at this, and several other facilities, embarked on a strike over their working conditions, causing a severe backlog in autopsies and burials.

"The same happened in May, with the result that the MEC (Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo) rushed in to perform post-mortems himself. At the time, the DA warned him that, unless he dealt with workers' grievances, they would continue to come back to haunt him," Keeka said.

The DA will call for an urgent oversight visit by the province's health portfolio committee to the Pinetown mortuary instead of the routine oversight visit to the Fort Napier Mortuary the committee will conduct on Friday, Keeka said.

"We will also submit a written parliamentary question to MEC Dhlomo about the circumstances at this mortuary and will call for answers around the delays in burials, which we believe could also be as a result of the department’s current financial status," he said.

On Monday, the DA called for Dhlomo's dismissal following the recent findings of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) into the oncology crisis in the province.

Violated rights

The 68-page report found that Dhlomo and his department had "violated the rights of cancer patients to have access to treatment".

The commission found that the health department, both nationally and in KwaZulu-Natal, had failed to take reasonable measures to progressively realise the right to have access to healthcare services in in the province.

The KwaZulu-Natal health department was not immediately available for comment.

In Gauteng, untrained staff members have been conducting post-mortems for the province's health department since 2006, the health portfolio committee heard on Tuesday morning.

The revelations were made when the director general of the national health department, Malebona Precious Matsoso, briefed the committee on the ongoing strike by forensic staff in Gauteng, chairperson Mary-Ann Dunjwa told News24 on Wednesday.

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