Bodies pile up in Meru as mortuaries struggle to dispose unclaimed corpses

By , K24 Digital
On Thu, 26 Jan, 2023 17:53 | 2 mins read
Bodies pile up in Meru as mortuaries struggle to dispose unclaimed corpses
Refrigerators in a mortuary. PHOTO/Courtesy

Meru Teaching and Referral Hospital is in crisis after its mortuary is filled up to capacity following delays by the courts to give Disposal Orders for unclaimed bodies.

The morgue chambers, whose capacity is 60 bodies, is currently holding about 319 bodies overstretching the facility and posing a health hazard.

The pile-up of bodies at the Hospital morgue has also affected Miathene and Nyambene Level Four hospitals.

Miathene Level Four Hospital has a capacity of 15 bodies.

This has now revived calls for the establishment of a municipal mortuary, to decongest hospital morgues and ensure quality service delivery.

At Meru Teaching and Referral Hospital, the situation is so dire that morgue attendants have had to turn away police officers delivering unclaimed bodies, as well as those collected from crime scenes.

Imenti North Police Commander, Ezekiel Chepkwony, said police officers have had to transport bodies 25 kilometres away from the Referral Hospital due to the congestion.

Meru Teaching and Referral Hospital acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr Gacheri Kathiiri, said the pile-up has been caused by the inability to secure a Disposal Order from the courts since November 2022.

The law provides that bodies that remain unclaimed at the mortuary for 10 days can be disposed of through a court order.

“We usually make applications to the court for permission to dispose of bodies every two weeks. Since November last year, we have not been able to dispose of the unclaimed bodies," he said.

She noted that on average the facility disposes of about 30 bodies every two weeks.

Besides unidentified bodies, Dr Gacheri said the backlog was also as a result of land and family disputes.

Gacheri said the courts have been demanding that the Hospital goes an extra-mile to ensure the bodies are identified before seeking a Disposal Order.

An official at the hospital said an attempt by the police to identify the unclaimed bodies to meet the court directive proved futile, as only one body could be identified using fingerprints.

“Once the bodies are identified, the hospital is required to notify the government administrators to trace the deceased families. This is a tedious process that may cause a prolonged backlog,” the acting CEO said.

Gacheri noted that they were working towards increasing the morgue capacity to 90 bodies.

Nyambene Level Four Hospital Head, Dr Githu Wachira, urged residents who do not intend to bury their relatives, to give consent for disposal.

“When the family signs the consent forms at the Hospital, it becomes easier to obtain court orders. However, many of them abandon the bodies without a word,” Dr Wachira said.

The morgue is also stuck with 90 bodies of fetuses, piling pressure on the facility.

A spot check on the morgue established that one chamber, which is meant for three bodies, is holding more than 20 bodies.

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