'Dead bodies kept in broken fridges'

Inside the mortuary department of Far East Rand Regional Hospital where the fridges are alleged to be broken.
Inside the mortuary department of Far East Rand Regional Hospital where the fridges are alleged to be broken.
Image: Thulani Mbele

A pungent smell has caused panic among staff and patients at the Far East Rand Regional Hospital in Ekurhuleni where morgue fridges have been broken for a while.

Staff at the hospital told Sowetan the overpowering smell was as a result of broken fridges where the bodies of dead people are kept.

The staff and patients said the smell had been spreading from the mortuary through a passage right into the public spaces inside since the fridges were reported dysfunctional.

"It smells like something died in here and I can't stand it. I'm only here because I cannot afford medical aid. This hospital has no beds because I have been sitting on a chair in the ward for all these hours when I might be losing my baby. I'm forced to use this hospital it's the closest to me," a female patient said.

But hospital CEO Dr Constance Ndobe said the smell was not coming from the mortuary but from a broken sewage pipe.

She admitted that the mortuary fridges were broken but said they were fixed two weeks ago.

"The Far East Rand Hospital can confirm that we had some fridges that were out of order and have since been repaired by a service provider, but there were no bodies kept in the broken fridges during that time," Ndobe said.

"Furthermore, management can confirm that the matter was reported to the department of infrastructure development, who duly appointed a service provider to repair the broken fridges."

She said a service provider was on site and in the process of laying new pipes for the sewer.

She also said bodies were kept in the hospital mortuary for 21 days while unclaimed.

Ndobe had initially said the smell could be caused by the orthopaedic patients when they change bandages because the orthopaedic ward was close to the public passage.

A family in the hospital mortuary waiting area to collect the body of a man who died on Friday complained about the sharp odour coming from the morgue area.

Charles Saira said the pungent smell was unbearable.

Insiders at the hospital told Sowetan the fridges have been malfunctioning since last year.

"The whole of December the main 18 fridges that store three people each were not working. Only a cold room that has extra shelves was working," said one staffer.

Another staffer said the cold room had temperature problems which were only fixed earlier this month.

He said what made the hospital smell is dead bodies that are kept for long periods.

"They decompose and release body fluid that creates the smell so it's worse when the fridge is not working; they deteriorate faster."

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