The Mortuary Manager at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Mr George Denkyi, has appealed to bereaved families to organise private burial ceremonies for their deceased relatives whose bodies are in the morgue instead of waiting for the COVID-19 pandemic to end before doing so.
He said since it was not clear exactly when the pandemic would end, it was unwise to continue to keep the bodies in the morgue.
“Going for the dead bodies and organising private burial ceremonies will save time and the cost of keeping the bodies in the morgue,” he stated.
Additionally, he said the move would prevent the morgues from getting full.
He told the Daily Graphic last Friday that once the private burial ceremonies were held, families could organise their funerals later, and in ways that they deemed fit and proper.
On Sunday, March 15, 2020, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in a national address, announced a ban on all public gatherings, including conferences, workshops, funerals, festivals, political rallies, church activities and other related events as part of measures to stop the spread of coronavirus in the country to be in force for four weeks.
He said private burials were allowed but should just be witnessed by a few people.
“Private burials are permitted, but with limited numbers, not exceeding twenty-five in attendance,” the President said.
Following the announcement, many families are said to have postponed the burials of their relatives with the hope that the pandemic would end soon to enable them to organise the funerals.
As of Sunday, April 5, 2020, the country’s COVID-19 cases had risen to 214 but the death toll from the disease remained five.
At the Korle Bu morgue last Friday – a day which normally would have been inundated with a large number of people picking their bodies for funerals – the situation was different as the place was virtually silent, with only a handful of people present to transfer or pick the bodies of their deceased relatives for private burial.
As part of measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease, management of the facility had also posted a notice at vantage points at the morgue, informing families that only four members would be allowed on the premises.
There was a public notice, which read, “Only up to a maximum of four people will be allowed in the mortuary to pick bodies for burial,” posted in front of the morgue.
According to Mr Denkyi, the move was to prevent overcrowding at the place and to observe the social distancing protocols to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Asked whether people were coming for their bodies within the period of the restriction of movement, and directive on the organisation of funerals, he responded in the affirmative but indicated that, it was only in small numbers.
“Before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, if you came here around this time on a Friday you would see about 300 people here. But now see, the place is quiet and only a few people are trickling in,” he said.
Before the ban, an average of 70 bodies were collected every week. However, last week the bodies collected were less than 30.
On the preservation of bodies of persons suspected to have died of coronavirus, he said before any remains were admitted to the facility, the authorities ensured that they were taken through the COVID-19 protocols. That, he said, was to ensure that the body of any person who died of COVID-19 was not mixed up with the other bodies.
He said it was also to prevent the mortuary workers from getting infected with the virus.
Any COVID-19 dead body the facility would receive, he further explained, would be treated separately and buried at a special place earmarked for persons who died of infectious diseases at the Awudome Cemetery.
“We receive bodies from the hospital and from private clinics who do not have mortuaries and then those who are declared dead, when they are brought in. Once somebody is brought to the emergency unit and the person is declared dead, they would do the COVID-19 protocols, where a form is filled to get the details of the problem the person was having before he or she passed on,” the manager said.
So far, he said the facility had not received any COVID-19 body.
At the Police Hospital in Accra, Emelia Ennin Abbey reports that the Deputy Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the hospital, Sergeant Faustina Afia Nunekpeku, said no bodies had been released to families since the President issued the directives on funerals and social gatherings.
That was because no relatives had come for bodies they deposited at the morgue.
She said the hospital had two morgues, one of them for storing bodies of known persons who had their families taking care of arrangements on how the bodies would be preserved, and another for unknown persons.
To decongest the morgue for the unknown persons to make room for storing other bodies during the period of the ban on funerals, the PRO said the hospital on Tuesday, March 31, 2020, embarked on a mass burial for bodies that had been kept in the morgue for some months after the hospital could not trace their relations.
In all, she said 120 bodies were buried. “It is a routine. We do it about four times in a year as and when it is deemed necessary,’’ she said.
At the Upper East Regional Hospital in Bolgatanga, there has not been pressure on the morgue, reports Vincent Amenuveve.
The Administrator of the hospital, Mr Yakubu Zakariah; and the Deputy Director, Administration, Ghana Health Service in the region, Mr Adjei Frimpong, told the Daily Graphic that most residents planned their funerals in a way that did not warrant keeping the bodies in the morgue for a long time.
According to them, the number of people who went to retrieve bodies for burial had reduced significantly.
The two officials, furthermore, stated that to help enforce the President’s directive on funerals, the health authorities had alerted the Bolgatanga Municipal Assembly to facilitate the provision of police escort anytime the need arose for people to retrieve the bodies of their relations for burial.
That will ensure that not more than 25 people are allowed to perform burial rites.