The Public Protector is launching an “own-initiative systemic investigation” into the Phoenix mortuary in Durban, where, as reported in MedicalBrief last week, there had been complaints about forensic malpractice at the overcrowded facility, with bodies piled on the floor, blocked, stinking drains and a lack of basic equipment.
According to a statement by the PP, several media reports suggested that mortuary staff lacked basic tools of the trade, supplies and protective equipment, reports News24.
“It has also been alleged that some medical apparatus are no longer in good working condition, leading to occupational health and safety hazards; and that there is a lack of fridges, resulting in corpses lying on the floors,” said PPSA spokesperson Oupa Segalwe.
Last week, at least 20 bodies had to be placed on the mortuary’s floor because the facility was overflowing with bodies.
The complaints followed the release of a March 2019 PPSA investigation report revealing widespread problems at government mortuaries across KwaZulu-Natal, including the Phoenix facility.
The earlier investigation, said Seglawe, exposed a lack of experienced forensic pathologists, insufficient equipment, poor cooperation between the South African Police Service and Pathology Services in pauper burials, and delays in issuing post-mortem reports.
“Similar to the latest complaints, the complainants in the initial matter, Medical Rights Advocacy Network, alleged in May 2015 that bodies had piled up on floors, in trolleys and on trays,” Segalwe said.
The head of the provincial Health Department, among other authorities, was directed to ensure quarterly monitoring of mortuaries to ensure compliance with all relevant legal prescripts. They were also ordered to verify the number of vacant administrators’ posts at all provincial mortuaries and to provide the PPSA with a report on measures to capacitate facilities.
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