Mortuary work takes horror toll

Penwell Dlamini

Penwell Dlamini

Michael Monamodi has seen far too many dead bodies, and it has made him sick - literally.

After working at Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital's casualty unit and mortuary for a total of 20 years, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder about five years ago.

Monamodi, 52, has been working for Gauteng's department of health since 1982. His job was to wash the dead, clean up the blood and prepare them for burial. But he has also seen too many litres of blood in the casualty unit where he worked for a few years.

Today he cannot sleep without the help of tablets, and is a regular visitor to psychologists and psychiatrists.

His life changed when he started having nightmares about the dead bodies he handled daily at the mortuary.

He was also disturbed by the frequent sight of patients at the casualty department with various injuries and illnesses.

"I began to suffer from tiredness, weight loss, lack of sleep, persistent headaches and heart problems," he said.

After he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in December 2002, he was told that he was medically unfit to work.

He has been on paid sick leave since.

In June and September 2003 he submitted medical reports to the human resources department for compensation.

When this did not yield results, he went to the Department of Labour to present his case. The department approved a 40percent compensation from his pension, but this had to be processed through his employers.

Monamodi said his employers took their time in processing his claim.

Monamodi said he last spoke to Nora Methapi, the Gauteng department of health's human resources director, on August 1. She told him she had forgotten about their pre-arranged meeting.

"She gave me sick leave forms to fill in, but I had already done so previously and told her so, and did not complete them.

"This would have cost me dearly as it meant revisiting doctors and going through the long process again," he said.

Monamodi's application has to go through the health department's board which verifies all claims, and if necessary, can ask for a second medical or expert opinion.

But Monamodi is yet to be informed of the board's decision.

Methapi was not available for comment as she was said to be on leave.