Mortuaries Face COVID-19 Pressure

Facing a crisis: Duncan Banyatsi. PIC PHATSIMO KAPENG
Facing a crisis: Duncan Banyatsi. PIC PHATSIMO KAPENG

Mortuaries are coming under increasing pressure due to COVID-19 deaths. Funeral Services Group operations manager in Botswana, Duncan Banyatsi said while the situation was still under control, it might get worse particularly after the country's biggest public health facility, Princess Marina Referral Hospital advised families to transfer bodies from the hospital immediately.

Banyatsi said this could see mortuaries bursting to the seams if COVID-19 deaths do not subside. Marina has decided to keep bodies for three days only, due to an escalation of deaths. Marina urged bereaved families to immediately transfer the bodies from the hospital. “We are currently having a surge in deaths in the hospital and our mortuary is overwhelmed.

It is then important to inform the relatives to arrange for the transfer of corpses 'immediately' at a time to their mortuary of choice. We are suspending our policy of three days waiting indefinitely,” the hospital said in a public statement. Last week, the country recorded 47 COVID-19 deaths in three days. In an interview, Banyatsi said they have faced increasing pressure in recent months. “Since COVID-19, the country has recorded over 1,300 deaths and our mortuary had buried 856 corpses from that number from our 20 branches.

That is 70 deaths in a month and it means we have three to four COVID-19 funerals a week.

The capacity of our mortuaries differs since the big ones which include Gaborone, Maun, Francistown, Mahalapye, Molepolole and Kanye carries up 40 bodies, medium one carries 24 and small ones 12. Mind you the corpses are not only coming from Marina hospital. We nearly experienced an overflow after the holidays,” he said on Friday. He added the other thing that helps the mortuaries in times like these, is that Batswana have changed from the tradition of conducting funerals only over the weekends.

On the issue of the staff welfare, particularly drivers who help people to bury their loved ones, Banyatsi said they are tested every week and given protective clothing to ensure that they are safe. “We keep on teaching our workers how they should take care of themselves and follow health procedures at all times. If someone is not well, we do not allow them to come to work and that is why they put on protective clothing even at mortuaries, use sanitisers at all times and are given counselling,” he said. Several health facilities have already issued warnings as they struggle to cope with the body count and the number of infected. “Our COVID beds and emergency isolation rooms are currently occupied. We are unable to admit or see more patients at the moment.

We apologize for the inconvenience.” This has since become one of the sad realities to many Batswana. To date, the country has recorded 80,154 positive cases with 8,970 active cases. Recently Princess Marina acting Hospital superintendent Dr Monkgogi Goepamang said the hospital had an overflow at their mortuary since the morgue has a small carrying capacity. “Currently, all the corpses have been accommodated. Our mortuary capacity only accommodates 12 bodies. In a week we receive a maximum of five COVID-19 related deaths.

Health workers are vulnerable due to the increase of COVID-19 admissions and high prevalence in the community. Some may be getting it from patients, colleagues or the community,” he told The Monitor on Thursday.

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