A new way to die

Thu, 12 Jan 2017 13:37:36 +0000


THE state of the University Teaching Hospital mortuary, where bodies are reported to be piled on the floor for lack of space in the refrigerators, calls for urgent attention by the authorities.

We must all find a new way to die and our remains secured in the 21st Century.

UTH is the country’s biggest referral hospital and, situated in the capital city, it should set an example of administrative and organisational competence, technical superiority and clinical excellence. It cannot allow itself to sink so low.

Zambians’ view of UTH is one where medicine is practised at the highest level of proficiency using state of the art equipment. It is a place which is supposed to offer services of a 21st Century medical centre where the theatres, wards, consulting rooms and the mortuary present Zambia to the world as a gleaming example of a middle-class African State.

It is understandable that the UTH mortuary, like many other such critical facilities, has seen better days and is now overwhelmed by the size of the population and it cannot cope with its present capacity.

A mortuary is an integral part of a health facility for the simple reason that never mind how efficient and effective clinical care maybe, some patients cannot be saved. Where medicine fails, the mortuary takes over.

That is why Lusaka residents are calling for the construction of a new, ultra-modern separate mortuary or the present building to be extended. They are horrified to be stepping over bodies whenever depositing their loved ones in the mortuary. In fact they say they are traumatized by the sight and experience of piled up bodies in a hospital which did not receive casualties from a disaster.

We are aware that UTH is currently undergoing major rehabilitation with the addition of several new, specialised ‘‘hospitals’’ – all situated in the same building. It is envisaged that soon we will have a separate children’s hospital, maternity facility, eye and renal centre.

This is a multi-million Kwacha infrastructure which has already made UTH look like it is being born again. This kind of investment is only possible where you have a superlative management team, backed by a caring Government.

It is our wish that the mortuary is not exempted from this commendable development. The present facility has outlived its usefulness and there is need for Government to replace it or extend it so that we remove from our midst the stigma that we have no regard for the dead.

How can one explain the situation where bodies, whether they are BIDs  (brought-in-dead)  or not have no place in the refrigerated system and have to be left lying on the floor. The question is: how long will they stay there? It means most of them are already decomposing.

One can only imagine the shock of relatives who enter the mortuary for the first time to collect their loved one for burial and are greeted by the foul smell and grisly sight of decomposed bodies lying on the floor. And they have to brave this scenario to reach their relative’s body tucked away somewhere in the bowels of the mortuary.

That is why we agree with the funeral parlour expert who suggests that Government should introduce a policy where we are all covered by an insurance policy that takes care of us immediately we expire so that our remains can be respectfully and decently deposited into a funeral home in preparation for burial or cremation.

This is the most appropriate way to die in the 21st Century. Not where you have to be just another mortuary number among the bodies on the floor. Times have changed.


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