The morgue at Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) has the capacity to hold 55 bodies, but the hospital is currently holding four times that, Managing Director of the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) Catherine Weech advised yesterday.
Weech made the revelation after Minister of Health Renward Wells urged family members to arrange to collect the bodies of their loved ones and warned funeral homes that storage fees would apply if they do not remove bodies in a timely manner after being paid by families to do so.
Addressing a Ministry of Health press conference yesterday, Wells said, “Like the boarders at PMH, some persons are using the morgue at PMH as a storage facility for their deceased loved ones.
“We understand that death and losing a loved one is an emotional and sensitive time. However, the morgue at the Princess Margaret Hospital continues to be stretched to capacity as a result of the delayed collection of loved ones who have passed.
“Given the necessary restrictions due to COVID-19 that had to be put in place as it pertains to funerals, some members of the public are opting to wait until restrictions have been lessened to collect the bodies of their loved ones.”
On New Providence, Grand Bahama and other islands listed in the second schedule grouping in the current emergency orders, a funeral may only be held provided the service is conducted at the graveside and is limited to 10 individuals, exclusive of the officiant and mortuary workers.
Funeral repasts are prohibited.
Wells said, “We are encouraging members of the public to arrange with a mortuary company to secure and retrieve their loved ones. We are also, again, urging the local mortuary companies to collect the bodies that persons have already paid them to transport to their funeral home of choice.
“The failure of these companies to comply would have to, unfortunately, result in the existing legal storage fees being applied.”
Wells did not reveal specifics on the fees.
Weech said the problem also exists in the Grand Bahama Health Services.
“[We] have a capacity of about 25 and, at times, our number can go up two to three times that amount,” she said.
The PHA managing director added, “Since the start of COVID-19, we instituted policies to ensure that patients dying from COVID were separated from the main population and those bodies were accommodated in the external coolers of the hospital (PMH).”
She suggested the strain on the morgue was presenting a challenge as it regards holding deceased COVID-19 patients.
“[We] want to continue to impress upon the general public to ensure that they work with us to ensure that those bodies are removed in a timely manner, thus allowing us the opportunity to be able to properly manage those bodies that we have to hold requiring any examinations, but certainly to ensure that we create environments where we can safely take care of our bodies, the remains of your loved ones,” Weech said.
“So, we want to impress upon the public to please, work with us. We have our facilities open Monday through Friday and by all means the Medical Records Department to facilitate the discharge of all bodies from the hospital.”