EAST London’s Woodbrook Mortuary, which was found to be one of the worst state mortuaries in the province, is now standing unused and half-renovated.
A tour of the facility by Weekend Post this week found that, even though East London’s only other mortuary in Mdantsane is over-burdened, the Woodbrook facility is unable to operate because it lacks vital finishing touches and equipment.
A staffer also said there had been no sign of construction workers on site for two months.
And, although Woodbrook is being used to store bodies in its fridges because the Mdantsane Mortuary fridges are full, there is no hot water in the building for staff to wash their hands properly.
The mortuary has also yet to be supplied with dissection tables in its renovated autopsy areas and there is no security at the building at night, sparking fears evidence in criminal cases could be tampered with.
In an investigation in August last year by Weekend Post’s sister newspaper, the Daily Dispatch, reporters found bodies stashed high in a broken freezer, corpses on trays on the floor and uncovered bodies on the ground.
The mortuary closed shortly afterwards for renovation, but has yet to re-open.
A staffer said besides the lack of hot water, the areas where bodies were dissected and stored had not been tiled during the renovation, which would make thorough cleaning after post mortems difficult.
The fridge also has a faulty light, making it difficult to identify bodies when loved ones came to view them.
Furthermore, there are not enough vehicles to collect bodies in the event of an accident where multiple bodies need to be transported to the mortuary.
This week garbage bags full of rubbish and piles of bent and dirty steel trolleys were stashed in a room adjoining the fridge where bodies were being kept. DA shadow MEC for health John Cupido, who accompanied Weekend Post on the tour, said he was “outraged” that the Health Department was dragging its heels in completing the mortuary’s upgrade.
“It just needs minor finishing touches in order to become fully functional, yet it has stood untouched by contractors for two months.
“This immediately decreases the quality of forensic services and the dignity that should be shown towards people’s loved ones.”
Cupido said he was also concerned about security at the mortuary, saying this could lead to criminals tampering with evidence.
“There is no one here after hours so it is possible that a person could steal a body and dispose of it as a way of disposing of evidence.”
Department of Health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo referred questions to the director of specialised services in the department, Dr Tobela Nogela.
Dr Nogela could not be reached for comment.