Elsewhere in this paper, we have published a warning by the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) informing the general public that it will undertake a mass burial for all unclaimed bodies in its mortuary within the next two weeks.
The move, according to the hospital is to decongest the hospital’s mortuary which is full beyond its capacity.
A statement signed by the Head of Public Relations, Mustapha Salifu and issued in Accra yesterday said “authorities of KBTH wish to inform the general public that there will be a mass burial for all unknown and unclaimed bodies in its mortuary within two weeks.”
The statement explained that the unclaimed bodies had been left in the mortuary between one and three years, resulting in congestion at the facility.
“The hospital is using this announcement to once again urge families who have the bodies of their relatives in our mortuary to come for them,” the statement urged.
Following the directive on private burials as announced by President Akufo-Addo on March 15, 2020, most mortuaries across the country have been reportedly inundated with dead bodies.
The President had directed that limited number of persons not exceeding 25 should perform the private burials but it appears many families are reluctant to claim their deceased relatives having postponed funerals till after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The reluctance to claim the dead bodies as well as the backlog of unclaimed bodies is choking the mortuaries and presenting a whole new challenge to the hospitals.
The General Secretary of the Mortuary Workers Association of Ghana (MOWAG), Richard Kofi Jordan, in a media interview earlier, expressed worry about new infections if the mortuaries were not decongested.
“Ghanaian mortuaries are just like prisons. They don’t have much space and because it’s likely that someone might die from undetected COVID-19 at home, they might still be taken to the mortuary.
“If the place is crowded, there will likely be a transfer of the virus, so even though we are trying to fight COVID-19, we will actually end up spreading it more.”
The Mortuary Manager at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Mr George Denkyi has also indicated that it was unwise for families to keep bodies of their deceased in the mortuary, as it was not clear exactly when the pandemic would end.
“Going for the dead bodies and organising private burial ceremonies will save time and the cost of keeping the bodies in the mortuary,” he advised.
The arguments put up by the mortuary workers not only make sense but also worrying and we fully share in their concerns.
We are not in normal times and it is important for all families who have lost their family members to quickly arrange for their burials to decongest the mortuaries and more importantly to prevent the spread of the disease.
We join the President and the various hospitals to appeal to bereaved families to make arrangements and collect the bodies for burial before the mass burials are organised by the hospital.
After all, it is better and more dignifying to provide a private and fitting burial for family members than allow them to be included in a mass burial.
Let’s heed the President’s advice and perform the private burials to decongest mortuaries across the country.