Pauper backlog at Jo'burg morgue

Several corpses destined for paupers burials at the Charlotte Maxeke Academic hospital have been lying in wait for several months, a Mail & Guardian investigation revealed on Monday.

Many of the corpses exhibited advanced stages of decomposition and freezer burn, while others were bloated and leaking bodily fluids and exuding a sharp stench.

The M&G is in possession of copied documentation corroborating the date of death and time spent the morgue—some cadavers have been awaiting burial since August.

“We work here and we even eat here. I have complained but they do nothing,” a disgruntled worker at the mortuary, who preferred anonymity for fear of reprisal, told the M&G.

Morgue employees have also complained of a lack of protective gear such as masks and gloves when dealing with corpses.

Indigent burial
According to morgue employees, the majority of corpses held in the morgue were awaiting pauper’s funerals—the onus of which lies with the state if indigent people cannot be buried by their families.

In cases where families cannot afford a funeral, an application must be made to a municipality for an indigent burial.

“We complained but were told by morgue management to draft a report. We did that and nothing happened.
Why must we work like this?” said the mortuary employee.

Those working in close proximity to corpses are at risk of contracting infectious diseases such as hepatitis and tuberculosis, unless correct precautions are taken with protective gear.

According to the Occupational Health and Safety Act all people working in mortuaries must have access to gloves and surgical masks.

National problem
Recently, state-run morgues across the country have come under fire for overcrowding, poor hygiene and shoddy administration.

In July, an M&G investigation revealed the morgue at Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital to be overcrowded and staff having to work in poor sanitary conditions.

A Daily Dispatch investigation in August showed similar problems at state-run mortuaries across the Eastern Cape.

On Monday afternoon, the Gauteng health department were still formulating a response to the M&G and would not comment.

Nickolaus Bauer

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. Read more from Nickolaus Bauer

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