Hospital denies mortuary chaos — despite the evidence

The Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital has contested the findings of a Mail & Guardian investigation into the state of its mortuary saying they were based on incorrect information peddled by a union — despite eye-witness and photographic evidence suggesting otherwise.

The investigation revealed corpses, some of people who had died in January this year, stacked on top of one another in the mortuary. Many showed signs of advanced decomposition. More than 100 corpses of babies were also found in the mortuary, with up to 30 piled on a tray designed for a single adult.

The slow process of effecting paupers’ burials and the high cost of funerals were blamed for the bottleneck.

More than 90 unclaimed bodies await interment.

“As far as we’re concerned [the exposé] was incorrect information and part of ongoing sabotage that we are currently dealing with,” said Nkosiyethu Mazibuko, the hospital’s public relations officer.

Proof: The pictures we showed the Gauteng Department of Health.

Two M&G staffers visited the hospital this week to find that the bodies had been removed from where they were stacked last week and hospital workers were cleaning up the morgue premises with mops and hoses. A photograph was taken of the clean-up operation.

Immediately after the M&G‘s report a mortuary worker with 20 years of service was sacked for allegedly giving the M&G information on the state of the morgue.
He spoke on condition of anonymity and described the poor circumstances under which morgue employees worked.

He said they worked in close proximity to corpses without the protective gear prescribed by the Occupational Health and Safety Act, such as surgical masks and rubber gloves. “I don’t understand why [I was dismissed] – I was fighting for my rights,” he said this week.

The hospital denied the claims. “We were surprised when we saw this story because nobody has complained to mortuary management about not having equipment to work with,” Mazibuko said.

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union, of which the source is a member, dismissed the hospital’s comments.

“We don’t have to stage anything; everyone can see the hospital is collapsing.

“A smear campaign against unions won’t work and will strengthen our resolve to see management of the hospital removed,” said Sizwe Pumla, the union’s spokesperson.

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Nickolaus Bauer
Nickolaus Bauer is the Mail & Guardian's jack of all trades news reporter that chases down stories ranging from politics and sports to big business and social justice. Armed with an iPad, SLR camera, camcorder and dictaphone, he aims to fight ignorance and pessimism through written words, photographs and videos. He believes South Africa could be the greatest country in the world if only her citizens would give her a chance to flourish instead of dwell on the negativity. When he's not begging his sub-editors for an extra twenty minutes after deadline, he's also known to dabble in the occasional poignant column that will leave you mulling around in the depths of your psyche. The quintessential workaholic, you can also catch him doing sports on the weekday breakfast show on SAfm and presenting the SAfm Sports Special over the weekend.

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