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Grave situation as bodies pile up at KZN state mortuary

Bodies pile up at a KwaZulu-Natal state mortuary as forensic pathology services staff embark on a go-slow
Bodies pile up at a KwaZulu-Natal state mortuary as forensic pathology services staff embark on a go-slow
Image: Supplied

As bodies piled up at a KwaZulu-Natal state mortuary, forensic pathology services staff vowed to intensify their go-slow.

On Tuesday the provincial health department said there was a backlog of 26 bodies that needed to be processed at the Fort Napier Medico-Legal Mortuary.

"Normally, the mortuary performs between 10 to 12 autopsies per day. However, since the go-slow began, the workers have been performing a maximum of two bodies per day – causing the number to accumulate," the department said in a statement.

On Tuesday morning health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo performed two autopsies to help clear the backlog.

“Families are here, desperate, and crying. They are supposed to have buried over the weekend, and they have not. The people of South Africa will judge for themselves…what kind of people these are.

"I am here to add my weight to contribute towards making sure that families will be able to bury their loved ones, starting from tomorrow and the weekend. We want to make sure that families that need to bury their loved ones do," he said.

Dhlomo has instructed the department's legal division to urgently obtain an interdict to force workers out of the premises or return to work as normal.

But the Public and Allied Workers Union of South Africa in KZN, which represents some of the aggrieved workers, said the go-slow was expected to spread to other mortuaries in the province on Wednesday.

Provincial secretary Halalisani Gumede told SowetanLIVE that staff could not continue to work in poor conditions.

He explained the conditions in the mortuary were unbearable as the air conditioner was not working.

"The processing clothing that staff wear is already so warm. The staff are dealing with bodies as a result of unnatural deaths. They are exposed to communicable diseases and without a working air conditioner, the mortuary is a breeding ground for bacteria."

Disgruntled workers are also demanding that the department honour an agreement to settle their back pay.

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