Management of the Good Hope Cemetery has expressed regret at the shallow grave burials recently discovered and has accepted liability for what has happened, according the Public Relations Officer of the Georgetown Public Hospital Alero Proctor.
Proctor told Stabroek News that the Hospital’s Management has had a meeting with the Management of the cemetery and crematorium and they have managed to come to a compromise. The crematorium will grant the hospital six concessions for future burials and in an effort to avoid any recurrence of improper or unsafe practice, Proctor reiterated that the Facilities Management Department of the hospital, which is responsible for the operation, will in future have a staff member accompany the corpses to the burial site and oversee the process.
Coffins with unclaimed bodies due for burial had been discovered stacked atop each other in single shallow grave plots at the Good Hope Cemetery, in what is believed to be a scheme to defraud the Georgetown Public Hospital of funds paid out for their disposal. The scam was reported by Stabroek News after a member of the public supplied photos.
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 hospital says is in violation of the contract for disposal. GPHC 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.
With the burial site having since undergone an expansion, this has prompted questions about whether more bodies and/or body parts have been disposed of in shallow graves or if the previous ones were dug up and properly buried.
An officer from the Mon Repos Neighbourhood Demo-cratic Council (NDC) on Monday last accompanied the individual who had initially made the discovery to examine the area for himself.
The Superintendent of the NDC, Rocky Ramgopaul, and the Sanitary Inspector, whose name was only given as “Marlon,” had both said that not much could have been done, since it would be difficult to locate the shallow graves.
The Chairman of the NDC Ragnauth Raghu later accepted the invitation to send one of his officers and as such, Ramgopaul and ‘Marlon,’ both went to the site to have a look.
When contacted yesterday, Ramgopaul said that ‘Marlon’ would be required to prepare a report and would be the appropriate person to speak to. However, attempts to contact the inspector proved futile.
Meanwhile, Proctor indicated that the matter is considered to be closed. “We have to use their service because we will have to conduct more poor burials,” she further noted.
The member of the public discovered the situation when he went to the facility to attend a funeral. According to him, he noticed around 10 boxes that appeared to be coffins being offloaded from a truck and upon inquiring he was told that the boxes were being placed in separate graves.
However, upon further investigating at the site where they dug the graves, he said he found two shallow graves; one grave with six boxes stacked in two rows, one on top the other; and the other, smaller grave, with two boxes on top each other. “I assume that the last box would have been put on top of the upper box in the smaller grave, making it a stack of three in all,” he explained. He noted also that the boxes are “very close” to the surface.
Realising that they had been caught in a lie, he said the men who were offloading the boxes from the truck subsequently allowed him to have a peek through the cracks of one of the boxes and explained that it contained body parts from post-mortem examinations. When he asked why the remains were not burnt for sanitary reasons, the men said that it would cost more to do so. While the box may have contained body parts it may have also had a body within.
The member of the public said that a companion spoke with the truck driver, who explained that some of the boxes contained not one, but two bodies. He added that his companion was told that this situation also went on at the Le Repentir Cemetery, but with the graveyard now full, they were now burying the remains at the Good Hope location.