NDC unable to locate mass ‘poor burial’ graves

‘When they doing this thing, they digging the graves the night before, so it hard for us to find these persons and the graves’ – NDC Sanitary Inspector

The Mon Repos Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) has not been able to find the shallow grave plots at the Good Hope Cemetery storing coffins with unclaimed bodies, with one inspector saying it would be difficult to find them.

Mon Repos NDC Superintendent Rocky Ramgopaul yesterday told Stabroek News he only had knowledge of one body being buried in a shallow grave at the cemetery, which is believed to be the site of a scheme to defraud the Georgetown Public Hospital (GPH) of funds paid out for “poor burials.” The mass graves were discovered by a member of the public who had gone to the facility to attend a funeral. In one instance, six wooden boxes containing bodies and small body parts used for testing in post-mortem examinations were stacked in a single plot, which the GPH said is in violation of the contract for disposal.

Asked about the situation, Ramgopaul said he had knowledge of one body being buried in a shallow grave earlier this year. He added that the body, which was reportedly from a funeral parlour, was seen being placed into the ground by someone on the cremation site who subsequently informed the NDC. The Sanitary Inspector, he added, was later sent to the crematorium and the body was dug up and properly buried.

However, when Stabroek News contacted the Sanitary Inspector, whose name was given only as “Marlon,” he said that the body was never reburied since it would be difficult to locate the shallow grave in the cemetery. He noted that the shallow grave burials are illegal acts and persons, he said, have their suspicions as to who may be responsible for arranging them.

“When they doing this thing, they digging the graves the night before, so it hard for us to find these persons and the graves,” Marlon explained.

He said since he spoke with Ramgopaul on Tuesday, no attempt has been made to go to the Good Hope site and track the movements of the individuals who are involved in burials.

“We don’t know when they are going. And even if we go afterwards, how are we finding the graves?” he asked.

Meanwhile, GPH spokesperson Alero Proctor yesterday said that the hospital is still awaiting the return of their Chief Executive Officer Michael Khan before further action is taken.

She has already announced that in order to ensure that protocols are being followed and to avoid any occurrence of improper or unsafe practice, the Facilities Management Department of the hospital will in future have a staff member accompany the corpses to the burial site and oversee the process.

GPH uses the Good Hope facility to perform “poor burials” and is billed for each grave order, which requires that there should be no more than one box per plot.

A “poor burial” costs $15,000 per grave order, which is half the price of cremating a corpse. The hospital also pays contractors for hardwood and transportation. As of July 31, according to GPH statistics, the hospital had stood the cost for 23 graves—seven in February; eight in March; and eight in June—at a total cost of $632,500.

In addition to unclaimed bodies, specimens for testing during or after autopsies are also disposed of at the cemetery. These specimens or small body parts are sent to the GPHC’s Medical Laboratory from hospitals countrywide and it is GPHC’s responsibility to have them disposed of.

A private entity, Proctor said, is contracted to have the boxes containing the bodies and the specimens transported to the crematorium and thereafter it is the responsibility of the Sexton to have the burial take place according to the “required standard.”

Proctor noted that there are no sanitary risks involved in burying the bodies and the parts, once the burial is done in accordance with the required standard, which she reiterated is the responsibility of the sexton.