Former KZN health MEC performs postmortems to help mortuary backlog

The department of health's Park Rynie mortuary has a backlog because it has only one doctor.
The department of health's Park Rynie mortuary has a backlog because it has only one doctor.
Image: Orrin Singh

Minister of health Dr Zweli Mkhize will need to provide an explanation as to why no resources have been allocated to Park Rynie Forensic Mortuary, on KwaZulu-Natal's south coast.

Chairperson of parliament's portfolio health committee Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo said the facility received about 10 bodies a day and had only one full-time doctor who could perform between three to four postmortems per shift.

“I have since written to minister Mkhize a parliamentary question requesting an explanation regarding the situation at Park Rynie mortuary.”

According to the former KwaZulu-Natal health MEC, upon closure of the Gale Street Mortuary in Durban in March, resources were split between the Phoenix, Pinetown and Park Rynie mortuaries in order to carry the load.

“The doctors were given an opportunity to choose where they could go and no-one chose to come here.”

The Gale Street Mortuary had been the subject of much debate for several years, with employees constantly downing tools over unhygienic and poor working conditions at the facility in the heart of the city.

Last year members of the health portfolio committee visited the Durban mortuary and recommended that the department close the facility.

In December a decision was taken by the department to close the mortuary indefinitely.

On Thursday, Dhlomo rolled up his sleeves and assisted staff at the facility to help get through the backlog.

He said he had been alerted to the dire situation at the mortuary after two shooting incidents near his family homestead in Umbumbulu on Friday and Monday.

“On Friday afternoon three of the victims had been travelling from a shopping complex in Umbumbulu towards their home. They were about to turn off from the R603 on to a dirt road to their homes, that's when they were shot at by occupants in a car driving past. We all rushed to the scene and police were there.”

He said in the early hours of Monday morning another victim was shot dead, who he later learnt had been a close friend of the victims in Friday's shooting.

“Police have informed me that the incident has been forwarded to a provincial task team of investigators.”

He said the fact that he is qualified to perform postmortems compelled him to assist the families of the victims in his community.

“I felt that they may be some members of my community, of those four families, who may just not be able to bury their loved ones this week. Therefore I took a decision to come here and assist under the support of the full-time doctor here,” he said.

The department of health didn't immediately respond to queries.

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