Corpses decompose after freezer breakdown at NA hospital mortuary

Seepaul Ramlochan

Several bodies have decomposed while being stored at the New Amsterdam Public Hospital’s mortuary, prompting at least one family to call for an investigation.

A source told Stabroek News that the mortuary’s freezer has been down for close to two weeks.

Since that time, at least four bodies decomposed while being stored in the mortuary.

The upset relatives of the deceased are calling on the Ministry of Public Health to launch an immediate investigation.

The bodies include that of Rabindranauth Ramnarace, 47, who passed away on December 31st.

The New Amsterdam Hospital yesterday morning

His brother, Seepaul Ramlochan, 61, of Lot 31 Number Two Village, East Canje Berbice, yesterday told Stabroek News that on January 11th, he visited the mortuary, where he saw his brother’s body intact. He added that while he wanted to take the body to a private mortuary he was denied the option to do so since, according to him, both the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the hospital and the Director of Health Services for Region Six told him that a post-mortem examination had to be done on his brother’s body before it could be released to him.

The man said he was unsure of the cause of his brother’s death, since a post-mortem examination was eventually not done due to the body’s state of decomposition while being stored at the hospital.

Ramlochan said his brother was an alcoholic.

“On the 11 of January, I see he and he was fresh. I ask to move the body, them refuse to give me the body. On the 14… when I come back to the mortuary, them say the dead move to Arokium [Funeral Parlour]. When I go and see the body, it decompose,” he related.

According to information gathered, it was several days after the mortuary was down that officials at the hospital discovered that the bodies had decomposed. However, they then hurriedly transported the body of Ramlochan’s brother to the Arokium Funeral Parlour.

Stabroek News was told that another decomposed body was taken to the Upper Corentyne Area, while a third had to be buried the same day due to its advanced state of decomposition.

“Wednesday them call me and tell me them wouldn’t do a [post-mortem] anymore [and] we could take the body and bury it. When I ask the CEO secretary she say the body at Arokium,” Ramlochan said.

The man stated that he was forced to hurriedly bury his brother’s body on Thursday last without a proper funeral.

Ramlochan, who is very upset about the matter, is calling on the Minister of Public Health to investigate the matter thoroughly. The man also stated yesterday that he was not offered an apology by any health official in the region, while he noted that they pushed him around to avoid answering his questions.  “I’m looking for justice because this is overbearing now with this New Amsterdam Hospital now,” the teary-eyed man said.

Stabroek News visited the office of Director of Regional Health Services Jevaughn Stephens yesterday for a comment but he said this newspaper should contact the CEO of the New Amsterdam Public Hospital for a comment on the issue.

This newspaper then visited the New Amsterdam Hospital and was told by the CEO’s secretary that she was unavailable to meet. Several calls to the CEO’s phone also went unanswered yesterday afternoon.

Meanwhile, in an invited comment yesterday, Zamal Hussain, the Chairman of the Regional Health Committee of the Region Six Regional Democratic Council, noted that he also attempted to get answers from Director Stephens after the issue was raised with him by Ramlochan, but he too was referred to the CEO of the hospital, “…But to date I can’t get through to the new CEO,” he said.

“This is a pattern since the new CEO has taken office; she is unreachable. You cannot reach her,” he said.

Hussain opined that the decomposition of the bodies was due to incompetence of the regional health officials. He suggested that after it was discovered that the freezer was not functioning, the bodies could have immediately been moved out to avoid such an issue.

However, he also pointed out, that it is unclear how long the officials would have discovered that the freezer was down, since he claimed, that they lacked interest in the health system.

Additionally, he noted, that he has requested to meet with Director Stephens at an early date this week to address the issues raised.

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