'Immoral' mortuary workers blasted as bodies pile up

Postmortem backlogs at KZN mortuaries have raised the ire of the provincial cabinet.
Postmortem backlogs at KZN mortuaries have raised the ire of the provincial cabinet.
Image: 123RF/Fernando Gregory Milan

The KwaZulu-Natal cabinet has lashed out at striking mortuary workers in the province, as a “go-slow” has left bodies piling up as postmortems are delayed.

In a statement issued on Thursday morning, the cabinet – known officials at the KZN provincial executive council said it had received a report from health MEC, Sibongiseni Dhlomo, on the strike.

Fort Napier mortuary in Pietermaritzburg is most affected by the strike, which started in November.

“At its sitting [on Wednesday], the exco described the action of the mortuary employees as ‘immoral, disrespectful to the deceased as well as inhuman to the bereaved families’,” the statement said.

The executive committee said it was “appalled” by the details in Dhlomo’s report, and  called on the mortuary workers to “end their illegal strike or face the consequences”.

According to the provincial cabinet, the workers were on strike over salaries, protective gear and uniforms, among other things.

“The provincial department of health is attending to the matters raised by the employees. However, issues that relate to national competencies are being dealt with by the national department of health. The matter has however reached a stalemate on some of the issues and is currently before the courts,” the statement said.

But in the midst of this battle, bodies were piling up.

“Mortuary staff, including those at Fort Napier … have been on a ‘go-slow’ since early November, resulting in postmortems being delayed. This has resulted in a backlog with relatives of the deceased not being able to bury the departed as planned,” the statement said.

“Exco decided today that if the employees do not return to work immediately, disciplinary action must be taken against them.”

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