17 November 2017

South Africa: Families Given a Chance to Identify M1 Bodies

Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa has instructed that the burial process of the bodies involved in the M1 South incident be stalled for seven days.

"I have instructed that the burial process be stalled for another seven days to give an opportunity to families, who might still want to come and identify their loved ones," said MEC Ramokgopa on Thursday.

This comes after a private undertaker trailer, carrying 42 bodies from Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital, lost one of its wheels. The bodies were going to be buried by the State at Olifantsvlei cemetery on Wednesday.

Giving a preliminary report of the M1 South incident during the sitting of the Gauteng Legislature, MEC Ramokgopa described the matter as very unpleasant and unacceptable.

"Even in instances where we cannot trace the family members of the deceased patients, the law still requires that we bury them in a dignified and respectful manner. As a norm, we utilised numerous communication channels to try to trace the family of the deceased, including placing their names on national newspapers," said MEC Ramokgopa.

Out of the 42 bodies, 16 were adults and 26 were stillborns. Many of their families did not opt to take them home from the hospital and requested government to bury them on their behalf.

MEC Ramokgopa said the preliminary report points to some violation of the law, including the failure by the private undertaker to produce the necessary document, which he was supposed to be in possession of and produce it when requested by the police.

In addition, hospital management failed to ensure that the undertaker produces those required documents before leaving the facility.

"I have already instructed the hospital to take measures to rectify non-compliance with the policy in this regard. I have also looked at regulations from the hospital on the transportations of bodies and I found that there are no clear specifications. In the midst of this, I have instructed the acting Head of Department to ensure that the transversal specifications are done.

"In the next two weeks, we will be issuing an invitation for transversal contracts. I am determined to ensure that we thoroughly investigate this matter and take all corrective measures to ensure that this does not happen again. Anyone who might be found to have neglected his/her responsibility will be held accountable," she said.

MEC Ramokgopa also conveyed her apologies to motorists for the inconvenience caused by the six to eight hours road closure.

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