Bodies Pile Up at Bara Morgue

Nickolaus Bauer, Mail & Guardian, July 15, 2011

[Editor’s note: The Baragwaneth Hospital, now named for the black Communist leader Chris Hani, is one of the largest hospitals in the world, and was built by the apartheid government to serve the people of Soweto. Before black rule, it was a first-rate trauma center and conducted research on rare tropical diseases.]

Bodies are piling up in the mortuary at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital owing to a backlog in paupers’ burials. The high cost of funerals means that many poor families cannot afford to bury their dead.

The hospital’s morgue is storing more than 90 adult cadavers that have long passed the statutory 30 days for bodies to be kept in a mortuary.

There are also the corpses of more than 100 babies who were either stillborn or died after being abandoned at birth, with as many as 30 piled on a tray designed for a single adult cadaver.

Many bodies are piled on top of one another in fridges and others lie in an open-plan refrigerator, littered on stretchers and stacked on shelves, most in an advanced stage of decomposition and exuding a sharp stench.

The lack of funds for proper burials, and slow administrative processes have been blamed for the overcrowding.

In the case of unidentified bodies a pauper’s funeral should be done and paid for by the state after all attempts to reach the next of kin are exhausted.

For the families who cannot afford a burial, an application must be made to a municipality for an indigent burial.

According to Avbob, South Africa’s biggest funeral parlour, the average cost of a pauper’s funeral is R2 200, with the most affordable interment charged at R6 595.

Workers at the mortuary face many challenges, including a lack of protective gear such as gloves and surgical masks, and say power failures occur often, intensifying the decay of corpses. “It’s sad. Many people don’t have money to bury their family, but it’s out of control. We tell them [hospital administrators] the mortuary is overcrowded, but they do nothing,” a mortuary worker, who preferred to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, told the Mail & Guardian.

Some mortuary workers say they have fallen ill as a result of working in close proximity to the bodies, while others complain of a lack of medical treatment for any infections picked up during their duties.

A senior medical practitioner at a state mortuary affiliated to the University of KwaZulu-Natal, who is professionally bound by the department of health to remain anonymous, told the M&G there is a high risk of contracting infectious diseases–such as hepatitis and tuberculosis–from working closely with bodies without the correct protective equipment.

“All bodies are highly contagious at all stages after death, especially if they are not kept at a cool temperature. In line with the Occupational Health and Safety Act all people working in a mortuary must at least wear the basics, like gloves and surgical masks,” the medical source said.

The embattled Soweto hospital, the largest in the southern hemisphere, is also experiencing a backlog in scheduled surgeries due to intermittent power and a lack of hot water.

Staff also claim they are maltreated. Unions at the hospital, including the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), handed over a memorandum of demands on July 8, threatening industrial action should their demands not be met.

The unions’ demands include the disbanding of all workplace forums, the re-opening of the maternity ward kitchen and consultation with unions when high-level decisions are made by hospital administrators. A separate call is made for hospital chief executive Johanna More’s resignation.

More held a press conference, with Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane, on Tuesday, during which she blamed saboteurs for problems at the hospital.

Speaking to the M&G, Nehawu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said the overcrowding in the mortuary was indicative of the massive crises the hospital faces.

“I am not surprised by this at all. If management has an attitude of blaming sabotage for the problems, how can you address the real issues? It is out of its depth and things are slowly eating away the hospital,” Pamla said.

Health department’s spokesperson Simon Zwane said it was standard practice to store multiple bodies on stretchers in the coldroom. The 180-capacity mortuary fridge is used to store the single corpses.

Morgue.jpg

Dozens of dead babies.

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  • Sonya

    So funerals are expensive. Are the laws so strict they are forbidden from burying their own dead? Especially babies? Surely the government could provide a piece of land to act as a paupers graveyard for families wishing to bury their own.

    Or do they just not care what happens to their dead family members so they leave them like trash at the hospital?

  • Deirdre

    This doesn’t surprise me. The idea that they should do anything for themselves, such as pick up a shovel and dig a hole (something even sub-Saharan Africans are capable of) completely escapes them. As with everything else, the people expect someone else to “do something”. The adult body contains the brain of a functionally-retarded person. This is just one of the million outrageous messes that emerge from expecting Africans to behave according to Western standards. And just as in every other way they are unable to.

  • Mr.White

    This is but one example of what happens when a black majority assumes power. Incompetence, corruption and overall indifference to the most basic of human decencies become standard practice.

  • WASP

    Families can’t afford to bury their dead loved ones?

    Apparently nobody in their neighborhood or extended family owns a shovel??? Sounds like the United Nations needs to air-lift some to them… and of course send some UN troops to do the digging as well.

    A friend of ours went to Haiti to pass out food and medical supplies. I told him to also pass out condoms while he was there.

  • Olewhitelady

    The average IQ among blacks in SA is around 70. Without white supervision, most of these people treat the living as badly as the dead. They have little or no concept of empathy and not enough skill at problem-solving to just decide to dig graves. They’re probably waiting for some white man to tell them what to do!

    In the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, even ultra-liberal Anderson Cooper displayed outrage at black workers dumping bodies into mass graves and then not even covering them completely. No doubt some white UN worker arranged access to earth-moving machinery and instructed the locals to carry out the burials–but didn’t think to instruct precisely how to do them and didn’t supervise the work.

  • American Son

    “The embattled Soweto hospital, the largest in the southern hemisphere, is also experiencing a backlog in scheduled surgeries due to intermittent power and a lack of hot water.”–from the article

    HAAA! And these people attempt to portray themselves as the “root of civilization.” HAAA! They can’t even keep the lights on and the water hot. The sheer and utter incompetence of blacks worldwide is shown in a perfect example right here. Something tells me that $2000 shiny rims are equipped on the majority of the automobiles in black utopia SA.

    Anytime a brain-dead, ranting progressive tries to tell you about equality, point out this article. It says it all.

  • Anonymous

    I wonder how long this white guilt/denial/political correctness has to go on before societies around the world can begin to acknowledge and deal with the issues honestly and realistically. For some reason, and most unfortunately, the white societies are the enablers of the fallacy that we are all the same. Its true that we are all members of the human race but in terms of sameness and equality that is as meaningful as the fact that we all live in the Milky Way galaxy.

  • Laager

    The above comments summarise the reality of Africa very well.

    How on earth can you hand over a fully functioning first world state to a population who has never created one in the first place, and does not have a clue on how to administer it?

    Well the western liberals told the white man in South Africa that it was possible.

    Stand aside white man they said and let the black man unleash his suppressed abilities.

    17 years down the track here is the proof.

    If I may quote Ian Smith (ex Zimbabwe Prime Minister) from his biography:

    Bitter Harvest – The Great Betrayal – “I told you so”

    Right liberals – now what?

    Where are your great ideas now to undo the mess you have created?

  • White Son of Japeth

    Well it is amazing how world-wide blacks have a high abortion rate, high mis-carriage rate, high pre-mature ect. However the black population explodes more&more. If all these babies lived the population growth of blacks would be “much higher. Only radical muslims are calling for population explosion like the blacks. They will never accept any birth control. Only massive fammine, disease, anarchy&chaos will reduce their populations.

  • Laager

    @ 5 Olewhitelady

    You make a very good point.

    Friends in Christchurch NZ sustained damage to their home as a consequence of the recent earthquake.

    As soon as conditions were deemed safe to begin remedial work what was their first project?

    They went to the bottom of the garden and dug a temporary pit latrine until such time as the water supply and drainage was repaired.

    Needless to say this family was white