Health experts have raised concerns about a steel kiosk being used as a mortuary at the Bongo District Hospital in the Upper East region, warning it could trigger a far-reaching epidemic in the area.
The dreaded structure, erected in 2004 and meant for only 3 bodies at a time, stands in the middle of the hospital premises without any cooling machine. The materials used in putting up the makeshift morgue have remained a subject of public displeasure for some time.
The whole structure is made up of metal sheets with a piece of wire mesh fixed within the door. Bodies kept inside the ‘kiosk mortuary’ are very prone to quick decomposition as a result of excessive heat from the steel sheets. And whilst the wire mesh on the door dangerously allows flies in and out of the dead room, it is also a vent for intruders to, against morals, snap or film the bodies kept in there.
“The zinc metal creates a lot of heat. Definitely, when you put somebody inside, considering the heat, by the time the person spends about 6 hours, 7 hours, 8 hours inside, the person may somehow start decomposing,” the Medical Director of the hospital, Dr. William Gudu, told Starr News at Bongo.
Standing close to the ‘acting mortuary’, Dr. Gudu alerted: “Once a corpse starts decomposing, it is prone for infection. And once a corpse starts to decompose, it will be attracting flies. Flies would go there and go to other people’s foods. You see all these people sitting here (pointing at patients and families sitting nearby), they eat here. The flies stand on their food when they are eating here. In case there is a corpse there which is having a trouble, the flies may be coming from there.”
Funeral forecasts called for kiosk mortuary
In the days the hospital did not have a place to keep corpses pending burial, the bodies of inpatients who passed away were left on the same beds they drew their last breaths until they were either sent to the morgue in the regional capital or taken away by the bereaved families.
The sights of dead bodies, covered in white inside the wards, continually gave recovering patients frightening hints to brace for departure and, only if the sick bed could afford them the luxury, to also draw plans for their own funerals. To avoid such ‘funeral forecasts’, inpatients involuntarily forsook their beds each time somebody passed away, to wait it outside the wards until the body was taken away.
The ‘kiosk mortuary’ came as a temporary answer to the unease inpatients suffered in battling with dead-body sights in the wards.
“The tension that goes around when somebody dies is what brought about this structure. I came and met it (the structure). When a patient dies, most of the clients or patients in the ward migrate out. Until the corpse is picked out, most of them would be outside.
“Supposing you get sick and you are admitted in the ward, and somebody dies on the next bed, what would run through your mind psychologically? The first thing that would run through your mind is the next person who would die- is it going to be me? So, most of them would move out. That was somehow the reason why this structure was created,” Dr. Gudu explained.
A hospital in distress
Behind the improvised morgue is a mini mortuary under construction but at a pace too slow to inspire the confidence needed to, in the meantime, contain the terror of the current structure.
Some natives of Bongo, resident in Accra, started the project on their own in 2015 after an embarrassing encounter with the improvised morgue. The new structure is designed to accommodate 12 bodies in air-conditioned apartments. The slow pace, Starr New learns, is due to financial hiccups.
“A mortuary is as important as a clinic or a hospital. Where to keep corpses is very, very important so that they don’t get decomposed- because they would pose health hazards to members of that health facility and the entire community, especially in terms of contagious diseases.
“I would appeal to the elite in Bongo, business men and women, opinion leaders, traditional authorities to quickly organise a stakeholders’ conference to address this critical issue,” the Upper East Regional Chairman of the Ghana Coalition of NGOs in Health, Noble Asakeya Alagskomah, proposed.
Inside the hospital yard also is a 50-bed-capacity children’s ward being constructed to put an end to what authorities describe as “perennial pairing of patients” at the hospital.
Meanwhile, the Member of Parliament for Bongo, Edward Abambire Bawa, has pledged to ease the burden on the hospital by providing the facility with solar panels for “lighting purposes”. The promise comes after Dr. Gudu’s directed an appeal to him for solar lamps and solar panels to help reduce the cost of energy consumption at the hospital.
“[I have been] thinking about it (the kiosk mortuary) but as of now resources are unavailable and, based on our priority, we hope to do something about it in the short to medium term,” the MP told Starr News.