Health Minister issues plea to families as morgue is too full

By KHRISNA RUSSELL

Tribune Chief Reporter

krussell@tribunemedia.net

HEALTH officials are urging members of the public to make arrangements for the remains of loved ones to be removed from Princess Margaret Hospital’s morgue where the facility continues to be stretched to capacity.

According to Health Minister Renward Wells yesterday, some people are using the morgue as a storage facility for uncollected remains. He said this practice cannot continue.

In cases where funeral homes are refusing to collect remains, Mr Wells said storage fees will be applied.

Currently, the morgue only has capacity for 55 bodies, but it now holds four times that number, Public Hospitals Authority managing director, Katherine Weech said.

“Some persons are using the morgue at PMH as a storage facility for their deceased loved ones,” Mr Wells said at a Ministry of Health press conference. “We understand that death and losing a loved one is an emotional and sensitive time. However, the morgue at the Princess Margaret Hospital continues to be stretched to capacity as a result of the delayed collection of loved ones who have passed.

“Given the necessary restrictions due to COVID-19 that had to be put in place as it pertains to funerals, some members of the public are opting to wait until restrictions have been lessened to collect the bodies of their loved ones.”

COVID-19 guidelines have placed limits on the number of people who can attend funerals.

“We encourage members of the public to arrange with a mortuary company to secure and retrieve their loved ones,” he added. “We are also again urging the local mortuary companies to collect the bodies that persons have already paid them to transport to their funeral home of choice. The failure of these companies to comply will have to unfortunately result in the existing legal storage fees being applied.”

For her part, Ms Weech said this is also an issue in Grand Bahama and made an appeal to members of the public to work with officials to have the situation rectified.

She said: “I can say to you that today we are over capacity by about four times. We have a capacity in our main hospital for 55 bodies, but to date I think we’re running four times that amount.

“I should also mention that at the Grand Bahama Health Services likewise we have a capacity of about 25 and at times our numbers can go up two to three times that amount.

“Since the start of COVID-19 we instituted a policy to ensure that patients dying from COVID were separated from the main population and those bodies were accommodated in the external coolers of the hospital.

“To date we recognise that over time the morgue, as indicated by the minister, has been used by the general public as a storage facility until such time as bodies are ready for burial. To date and with COVID-19 we want to continue to impress upon the general public to ensure that they work with us to ensure that those bodies are moved in a timely manner thus allowing us the opportunity to be able to properly manage those bodies that we have to hold requiring any examinations but certainly to ensure that we create environments where we can safely take care of the remains of loved ones.”

She said the facilities are open Monday through Friday and the medical records department facilitates all discharge of bodies from the hospital.