A grief-stricken family from KwaDukuza are still upset after their loved one’s body went missing from Stanger Hospital mortuary.
The corpse of matriarch Gladys MaQiki Njiyela, who died on Friday, 8 January, was reported missing 3 days later after the undertaker from the funeral home arrived at the mortuary to collect the 71-year-old’s body for burial.
After not receiving a satisfactory answer from hospital authorities, the family demanded that they be allowed inside the mortuary to look for her body.
Njiyela’s grandson, Khulekani Njiyela said they had to postpone the burial which was scheduled to take place at Mandeni, with many family members travelling from far to pay their respects.
“The funeral was arranged for the Wednesday so we had to cancel the catering, try and salvage the prepared food and inform everyone of the situation,” he said.
According to Khulekani, the mix-up happened when their grandmother’s nametag was put on the wrong body.
Njiyela said 2 family members were allowed entry into the mortuary, after donning personnel protective equipment, to search through the bodies.
They found their grandmother’s body the next day – wearing the wrong name tag.
The Njiyela family were lucky that they were able to rectify the blunder and bury their grandmother.
However, the grim reckoning is a reminder of a system that is currently in crisis.
While much of the attention has focused on how to keep people out of hospitals, or how the system can handle them once there, less has been paid to what happens to the dead.
With scarce supplies, dwindling staff and the need to avoid exposure to Covid-19 (regulations prohibit viewing of bodies), bodies are piling up at hospital mortuaries as, according to funeral parlour owners, deaths have more than doubled since the second wave.
Funeral homes responsible for moving bodies out of morgues are also overwhelmed.
According to a KwaDukuza funeral home director who did not wish to be named, many of them have smaller morgues than hospitals and families struggling with quarantine and financial hardships on top of grief sometimes cannot leave their homes to make timely arrangements.
This creates an even greater backlog.
“Regulations do not allow mortuaries to keep a body of a Covid-19 patient for more than 10 days and the deceased person has to be cremated or buried within 10 days of the person’s death.
“We are having to do four or five coronavirus funerals a week and we are not coping.
“Already some morgues are running out of space. While Stanger hospital mortuary has increased capacity, that is at risk of not being enough either.”
This article was republished from North Coast Courier with permission