A family in Mahikeng was left traumatised after they found the body of their 60-year-old relative already decomposing in the hospital mortuary.
The Mahikeng Provincial Hospital accepted full responsibility for storing the corpse in a dysfunctional fridge drawer at the hospital’s mortuary.
When the family went to collect the corpse on 27 October, they discovered that it was decomposed and refused to take it. The patient was admitted at the hospital and passed away two days earlier. The family lodged a formal complaint against the department.
The South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO) says the incident points to negligence on behalf of the hospital.
“The shocking incident points to gross negligence, systematic failure and non-adherence to the prescribed protocols including procedures for the care of deceased bodies,” said SANCO provincial chairperson Paul Sebegoe. “This is completely unacceptable and we wish to condemn these acts in the strongest possible terms.”
Sebegoe went on to say that it is the department’s responsibility to ensure the dignity of patients in their care, including the deceased. He hopes the ensuing investigation will bring closure to the family, and ensure that no other facility in the province is ever associated with such poor levels of service delivery.
“In this case, the hospital was insensitive in the manner they dealt with the bereaved family when they insisted that they collect a decomposed body for burial,” said Sebegoe. “They could have amongst other options proposed cremation to the family after taking full responsibility for the traumatic experience that has deepened the pain of their loss.”
Meanwhile, North West Health MEC, Madoda Sambatha emphasised that no stone will be left unturned in the investigation. The department is working with the family in an independent investigation in the Mahikeng Provincial Hospital’s mortuary services.
“We sympathise with the family and society at large because all procedures of handling corpses in a mortuary were not followed,” said Sambatha. “The fact that a corpse ended up being decomposed in a mortuary indicates how work ethic and care for the deceased is lacking from mortuary staff and management.”
Sambatha visited the family, offering an apology in person. He added that the staff members’ conduct was irresponsible and that those involved will face disciplinary action.
“I must say this incident indicates irresponsible behaviour on the part of officials involved. It points to lack of proper mortuary management,” he said. “I know that the family is deeply hurt and disappointed on how the body of their loved one was handled and I send my sincere apologies and condolences to the family.”
The family only collected the body after they received a written apology from the hospital management, as was their request. The provincial department also offered the family counselling and psychological services. —Health-e News