The PUP is sounding the alarm of a major health concern for the districts of Stann Creek and Toledo. They report that the Southern Regional Hospital's morgue has been down for about a month.
A press release from the party today says quote, "The entire nation should be appalled and outraged by the revelation. This is unacceptable, and yet, the Ministry of Health has nothing to say on this matter. What is worse is that this would have gone under the radar were it not for the death of a woman last week in Dangriga, where her husband was told that her body could not be kept at the morgue because it was not working."
The PUP's release then attacks the Government's spending for the Yes to the ICJ campaign. Their statement says, quote, "This UDP Administration is able to find millions to pay for propaganda to try to convince the people how to vote in the referendum, but cannot fix the morgue at the Southern Regional Hospital" End quote.
And it seems that the PUP's condemnation prompted the Ministry of Health to acknowledge the Southern Regional Hospital morgue's issues.
Their late evening statement find the PUP outrage to be quote, "...of poor taste in terms of politicizing the death of an individual in search of political mileage." End quote.
The Ministry says that they have already apologized to the family for this "systemic failure".
They go on to explain that although the morgue at Souther Regional is non-functional at this time, the hospital has a responsibility to transport bodies to either the Western Regional Hospital or the Punta Gorda Community Hospital morgue, or otherwise if requested by families. The Ministry says that a vehicle is assigned to provide that transportation. They say that this was simply not communicated to the family of the deceased from Dangriga, which caused some confusion, but it has already been resolved.
The Health Ministry's statement says quote, "The Ministry will invest in the repairs of the present morgue units while at the same time preparing to make a case for additional funding to purchase new units." End quote.
Apparently, a part is needed and when it arrives the morgue unit should be working, quote, "over the medium term within a week's time." End quote.
Southern Regional Morgue Closed Down
The morgue at the Southern Regional Hospital has been closed down and it will remain that way for possibly another week or two. It comes on the heels of another complaint about the nonfunctional morgue. In the most recent incident, Evan Andrewin reported that his wife died last week and he wasn’t able to store her body at the morgue. Andrewin also had to provide private transportation and make arrangements to store his wife’s body at home. Today when we spoke with regional manager, Doctor Franelda Gutierrez, she explains that there was a miscommunication with the family, but they are doing their best to rectify the situation. She explains what measures are in place to assist families.
On the Phone: Dr. Franelda Gutierrez, Regional Health Manager
“The morgue at the Southern Regional Hospital is not functional at the moment. It became dysfunctional the first time and that was addressed. In about ten days after it became functional it was up and running, however, after about four or five days there-after, it started showing signs of malfunctioning again and we took decisions to shut the morgue. So, it has been out of function for the past few days.”
“What are the measures in place and the steps to fix the problem?”
On the Phone: Dr. Franelda Gutierrez
“The plans that are in place this time are that when relatives who die inside of the hospital or relatives who die outside of the hospital and whose relatives cannot transport them then we provide the transportation to the PG Community Hospital or to the Western Regional – so any of the hospitals where there is space. We have had that system in place since day one. So, to addressing the situation, at no point in time have we stopped looking for ways to get the morgue back up and running.”
“If the hospital is assisting with the transportation – why did Mr. Andrewin come forward?”
On the Phone: Dr. Franelda Gutierrez
“We reached out to Mr Andrewin on Friday. Someone from the Ministry of Health visited Mr. Andrewin on Friday and by then he had made arrangements and the body was shipped. However, we have been trying to locate him today because we want to assist him. In Mr. Andrewin’s case the hospital could have accommodated his transportation; however, there was a misunderstanding of the process that is in place for assisting persons like Mr. Andrewin; so it didn’t kick in.”
Back in March, the body of Julia Palacio Castillo was already decomposed because the morgue facilities were not working. Her family spoke of the grief it had caused them. Now in respect of the recent situation involving the Andrewin family, the People’s United Party issued a press release today condemning the shutdown of the morgue. The Ministry of Health responded to say that the P.U.P.’s release is in poor taste and is politicizing the death of an individual in search of political mileage. The ministry says it will invest in the repairs of morgue units while at the same time preparing to make a case for additional funding to purchase new units.
Ministry of Health Issues Statement on the Morgue Situation at the Southern Regional Hospital
The Ministry of Health views with concern a press release issued by the People’s United Party in reference to the morgue situation at the Southern Regional Hospital in Dangriga Town. The Ministry considers this to be of poor taste in terms of politicizing the death of an individual in search of political mileage.
The Ministry offers its sincerest apology once more to the family and expresses regret that the family has experienced this unfortunate situation due to poor communication at the local level. The Ministry has conveyed to the family that it is prepared to offer any additional assistance and is making its utmost efforts to correct this systemic failure.
The Ministry of Health has no problem acknowledging that there is a need to purchase equipment for the morgue to improve services not only at Southern Regional Hospital but throughout the country. Although the Ministry is faced with competing priorities, management has made the decision to enforce the existing morgue policy which includes the hospital’s responsibility to transport bodies to either the Western Regional Hospital or the Punta Gorda Community Hospital morgue or otherwise if requested by the family for storage. A vehicle is assigned to provide the necessary transportation should the family require. In this latest incident, this was not communicated to the family by the attending medical officer who was called upon to fill in the death certificate of the deceased, who passed away at home and was brought to the hospital by the Police Department. Immediately upon being informed of the situation, management made contact with the family only to find out that the body had already been sent to Belize City.
The Ministry will invest in the repairs of the present morgue units while at the same time preparing to make a case for additional funding to purchase new units. Initial repairs to the existing unit led management to believe there would be some time for tendering and procurement, however, a few days ago, management was once again informed that the unit was down and that there was a need to procure a vital part for its functionality. This was ordered expeditiously, but unfortunately, the Ministry is still awaiting a time for delivery of the part that will hopefully have the morgue up and working over the medium term within a week’s time.
The Ministry of Health is working to restore the Southern Regional Hospital morgue and asks that the community cooperates during this time. The Ministry once again sincerely regrets this miscommunication and is making every effort to restore morgue services at the Southern Regional Hospital.