Preliminary report on M1 coffins incident points to violation of law‚ says Ramokgopa

The wheel of a trailor transporting 42 bodies from Charlotte Maxeke hospital came off on the M1 South highway in Johannesburg on Wednesday, causing a serious health hazard and huge traffic congestion.
The wheel of a trailor transporting 42 bodies from Charlotte Maxeke hospital came off on the M1 South highway in Johannesburg on Wednesday, causing a serious health hazard and huge traffic congestion.

Gauteng health MEC Dr Gwen Ramokgopa says anyone found to have neglected their responsibility in the case of a trailer carrying 42 coffins that was stranded on the M1 highway in Johannesburg on Wednesday will be held accountable.

She said a preliminary report on the incident pointed to some violation of the law‚ including the failure by the private undertaker to produce necessary documents which he was supposed to be in possession of and produce when requested by the police.

In addition the hospital management had failed to ensure that the undertaker produced the required documents before leaving the facility‚ Ramokgopa said in the Gauteng Legislature on Thursday.

“I have already instructed the hospital to take measures to rectify noncompliance with the policy in this regard‚ I have also looked at regulations from the hospital on the transportations of bodies and I found that there are no clear specifications. In the midst of this‚ I have instructed the acting HoD to ensure that the transversal specifications are done.

“In the next two weeks we will be issuing invitation for transversal contracts. I am determined to ensure that we thoroughly investigate this matter and take all corrective measures to ensure that this does not happen again.

Anyone who might be found to have neglected his/ her responsibility will be held accountable‚” Ramokgopa said A private undertaker’s trailer carrying 42 coffins from Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital to Olifantsvlei cemetery for pauper burials dislodged its wheels on the M1 south just after the Smith off-ramp on Wednesday.

Of the 42 bodies 16 were adults and 26 were stillborns whom their families preferred not to take them home and requested the government to bury them on their behalf‚ Ramokgopa said.

Briefing members of the Gauteng Legislature‚ she described the incident as “very unpleasant and unacceptable”. “Even in instances where we cannot trace the family members of the deceased patients‚ the law still requires that we bury them in a dignified and respectful manner.

As a norm we utilised numerous communication channels to try and trace the family of the deceased including placing their names on national newspapers.”

Ramokgopa added that she had instructed that the burial process be stalled for another seven days to give an opportunity to families who might still want to come and identify their loved ones to do so.

“I also want to take this opportunity to convey my sincere apology to the motorists for the inconvenience caused during the 6 to 8 hours road closure‚” she said. 

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