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The Morgue at the KHMH Nears the Brink of its Capacity

The struggles at the KHMH are not limited to just the Covid-19 Unit. There are current challenges at the hospital’s morgue as more than a dozen bodies remain uncollected. Officials are pleading for family members to pick up the bodies of their loved ones as soon as they can because having the morgue packed to capacity, is putting stress on its operations. Here again, is Senior Reporter Hipolito Novelo reports.

Hipolito Novelo, Love FM News:  Behind me is the KHMH morgue where over a dozen bodies are waiting to be picked up and laid to rest by their loved ones. Some have been here for weeks and as the days go by and the bodies go uncollected the stress level at the KHMH morgue intensifies.

Timothy Seguro, Acting CEO, KHMH: “First of all it isn’t that of a big big problem it’s just an issue that we need to try and address before it gets out of hand.”

 

Hipolito Novelo, Love FM News: And the possibility that it gets out of hand is real. The KHMH morgue is packed to capacity with bodies uncollected by their families.

Timothy Seguro, Acting CEO, KHMH: “We have a capacity of twenty one bodies normally however one of our unit has not been functioning for about three weeks so we’ve been maxing out continuously for the past three weeks so we’re asking the public to assist us at this moment until we get the next unit that is dedicated for the forensics department to be up and running which should be probably before the end of this week. However we just ask that especially with respect to the COVID cases that the bodies get out within at least a day or two to help us to relieve some of the pressure that is on the existing and functioning unit right now.”

Hipolito Novelo, Love FM News: And right now, according to Acting CEO Timothy Seguro, fifteen bodies are currently waiting to be picked up- some of them have been there for weeks. 

Timothy Seguro, Acting CEO, KHMH: “The normal capacity is twelve for the unit that is functioning. We have two units one that has the capacity of nine and one has a capacity of twelve. We’re collaborating with the forensics department and we have relocated some bodies to their unit in Ladyville; that’s helping us to alleviate the stress right now.”

Hipolito Novelo, Love FM News: This is UNIT 1- holding most of the bodies which are kept between 2 °C and 4 °C. At this temperature, the bodies can be kept for weeks but it comes at a cost, and at the moment is costing the KHMH in more ways than one. 

Timothy Seguro, Acting CEO, KHMH: “Normally the average length of stay was about four to five days. We have some in excess of two weeks, three weeks and if we have bodies that are for pauper burial it takes an excessively long amount of time to get rid of that.”

Hipolito Novelo, Love FM News: How does this restrict or limit the operations here at the morgue ? Does it hinder it ?

Timothy Seguro, Acting CEO, KHMH: “Yes it does in the sense that we have to constantly be jostling to see how we can make more space available on a constant process”

Hipolito Novelo, Love FM News: Does it also increase expenses in terms of having the bodies here for a longer period of time than normally ?

Timothy Seguro, Acting CEO, KHMH: “Of course yes it does increase the expense because the machine requires more power to keep the bodies cool for that long period of time and when we overload the unit which is quite possible when we put more bodies then it might give us an excess electricity bill.”

Hipolito Novelo, Love FM News: According to Seguro, families have given reasons why the bodies have not been picked up.  

Timothy Seguro, Acting CEO, KHMH: “All of them have various reasons and we try and work with them as much as possible but Belizeans have a way of trying to prolong their funeral process and we’re trying to ask them to help us in this time to shorten that process. From the morgue here we normally would contact both the next of kin for the body that’s in the morgue and also the funeral home that’s responsible to dress the body or to facilitate the family with preparing the body for funeral. We’ve also reached out to public health to see how they can assist us at least with the COVID bodies as they’re the ones that supervise how that gets done to see how they can fast track that process.”

Hipolito Novelo, Love FM News: Six of the bodies waiting to pick up are COVID victims. And if there is a case whereby a body is left abandoned at the morgue…

Timothy Seguro, Acting CEO, KHMH: “Then we have to initiate the process of what they call a pauper burial that’s for any case that the social worker would identify where we cannot locate the next of kin or there’s no one expressing any interest in removing the body.”