Gauteng launches digital fingerprint system to help identify unclaimed bodies

Hundreds of unknown bodies are currently being stored at several mortuaries across Gauteng.

A new digital fingerprint system promises to make it easier to help Gauteng mortuaries to identify unclaimed bodies, which presented a challenge to the health department.

“Currently, there are 841 unknown bodies across 11 mortuaries in the province,” said health and wellness MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko.

“Of these, 150 were identified using fingerprints sent directly to the police.”

Efforts to trace the families are, however, underway.

This will involve using the super trace links to the credit bureau, adverts in local newspapers and cooperation with the SAPS.

The new fingerprint system was launched on Thursday, July 13, by the Gauteng health department in collaboration with the Centre for Public Service and Industrial Research.

It was tested in January at various Gauteng mortuaries, which included Pretoria and Ga Rankuwa.

“This digital innovation will improve the quality of fingerprints collected,” said Nkomo-Ralehoko.

It uses biometric scanners and third parties will have access to databases maintained by the Department of Home Affairs, the SAPS and the national credit bureau.

“This innovation will result in an improved identification rate, which will lead to the tracing of families of known unclaimed bodies,” she said.

According to the Department of Health, the system’s efficiency was tested by using a sample of 65 body trace requests. Sixty-one of these bodies were successfully identified, with 25 families traced.

Four of the bodies were found to have fraudulent identities.

Nkomo-Ralehoko said the department previously faced challenges regarding unclaimed and unidentified bodies, preventing families from providing a dignified farewell to their loved ones.

She also said embracing this technological advancement will enable the delivery of services with enhanced speed and efficiency.

“The introduction of the system stands as one of the transformative milestones in the field of forensic pathology.”

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