Sun. May 19th, 2024

Health Minister Dr. Joe Phaahla has unveiled startling statistics indicating that there are more than 2,000 unclaimed bodies in government mortuaries across the country, with over 1,300 bodies alone in KwaZulu-Natal mortuaries.

Dr. Phaahla disclosed this information while responding to a parliamentary question posed by Democratic Alliance Member of Parliament, Madeleine Hicklin.

Among the provinces, KwaZulu-Natal reported the highest number of unclaimed bodies with 1,336, followed by Limpopo with 283, and North West with 266. Mpumalanga accounted for 82 unclaimed bodies, while Free State and the Northern Cape had 82 and 51 respectively. No figures were provided for the Gauteng, Eastern Cape, and Western Cape provinces.

Dr. Phaahla emphasized the policy regarding unclaimed bodies, stating that they must be transferred to a freezer within seven days of admission. If a body remains unidentified for 30 days, the municipal council must ensure a pauper burial is conducted.

Speaking on SAFM’s podcast show, First Take SA, Dr. Relebohile Ncha, Chief Director for Hospital Services at the Department of Health, attributed the accumulation of unclaimed bodies to families failing to claim their deceased loved ones.

Dr. Ncha highlighted the challenge of identifying bodies without any form of identification, mentioning the involvement of the South African Police Service (SAPS) to assist with fingerprints for identification purposes.

While the process may breach the government’s policy of not keeping bodies for more than 30 days, Dr. Ncha stressed the department’s commitment to exhausting all avenues for identification before resorting to pauper burials.

She acknowledged that the majority of unidentified bodies would ultimately be laid to rest in paupers’ graves.

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