REAL NEWS – A dead body was left on a ward at the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre for over a day, reportedly after both funeral homes refused to accept the body.
REAL News has received confirmation of that report, which was broken by correspondent George Wehner on Wednesday, July 26.
Reports say that a patient died on Saturday, July 22, but there was no family member to claim the remains.
This, sources explain, is what caused the corpse to remain at the medical facility for over 36 hours, with nurses reportedly having to work around the body.
The sources say that both Straffies and Barnes Funeral Homes have instituted a policy of not accepting bodies unless their next of kin agrees to assume financial responsibility for the funeral arrangements.
The Government reportedly owes the two undertakers many thousands of dollars for burials, including official funerals, with arrears running for several years.
Reportedly, one undertaker was able to get a portion of the money it is owed following the death of former Prime Minister Lester Bird, since certain services the Government required could be provided only by that particular funeral home.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Browne Administration received a container freezer to store the bodies of those who had died of the disease.
However, according to a source, that facility has not been working since last year due to a mechanical fault that prevents it from freezing properly.
Allegations are that the technician responsible for fixing the freezer had informed the permanent secretary about the replacement part required.
However, the Ministry of Health failed to order it and the situation remains the same.
Hence, the recently deceased patient could not be stored there in the interim.
Ultimately, Wehner says, it was out of concern for the medical disaster the corpse might have caused that the management of Straffies Funeral Home accepted it.
Apparently, directions on what to do with the body had been sought from the suspended coroner, Chief Magistrate Joanne Walsh.
A source says she directed that Dexter Wason, the acting chief magistrate, be contacted since he now serves as the coroner.
Reportedly, however, Wason had no solution to the problem. In the meantime, a source tells REAL News that the defective freezer contains about four to six bodies, including that of a Haitian man whose son allegedly has refused to take responsibility for his remains. All the other bodies reportedly have had no next of kin come forward to make a claim.
Allegedly, these persons died during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and no autopsies have been done on them. The law mandates that a person cannot be buried without a cause of death being established and a relative being notified of the burial.
Therefore, the Government has to hold onto the bodies until a family member is found and accepts the remains.
If a person is buried without knowledge of the family, reportedly, these relatives could then take legal action.
The source alleges that a permanent secretary had written to then Chief Magistrate Walsh, demanding that she give authorization to bury those bodies.
However, the source adds, Walsh refused, knowing what the law says about notifying the family and knowing, too, that the Ministry of Health had refused to act on the advice of the freezer technician.
Meanwhile, a source says that Attorney-General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin was expected to have the legal drafters put together legislation that allows the State to bury someone, after a certain period, without notifying the family.
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