Thousands of unclaimed bodies in Gauteng mortuaries

Jack Bloom MPL

DA Gauteng Health Spokesman

A total of 5786 bodies were unclaimed in Gauteng state mortuaries from January 2010 to October 2014.

These shock figures are revealed in a written reply by Gauteng Health MEC Hope Papo to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

The vast majority of these bodies (5352) were unidentified.

According to Papo, the main reasons for either unclaimed or unidentified bodies include foreigners, decomposed/mutilated bodies, skeletal remains and indigent families identifying but not claiming the body because they cannot afford to bury it.

An internet identification project was promised by the department in 2006, but it was not implemented despite being developed by Italian experts.

The department now says that it is developing a comprehensive Mortuary Management System that will include an identification component. The first phase is supposed to be completed by end-June 2013 and it is planned to be fully functional by the end of March 2015.

The huge number of unclaimed and unidentified bodies is a vast human tragedy.

Hundreds of bodies are given paupers’ burials every year without their relatives even knowing about it.

It is inexcusable that it has taken so long to develop an identification website such as the one that runs successfully in Western Cape mortuaries.

I hope that the department’s promises to fix this situation can be relied on this time.