Corpses pile up as Harare hospital glove shortage stalls post-mortems

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By Mary Taruvinga

SEVERAL bereaved families on Tuesday failed to collect bodies of their relatives from Harare Central Hospital mortuary after authorities reportedly indicated they had no gloves to conduct post-mortems.

Disgruntled relatives were turned away after enduring the entire day at the government health facility despite having offered to purchase the gloves in a bid to speed up the process.

About four families were still loitering at the hospital grounds when team visited the place with no hope of getting any assistance by day end.

“This is so disappointing. How can such a big hospital claim that it has no gloves,” said one Malo Chitanda who lost a mother two days before.

The family had planned to conduct the burial on Tuesday.

A visibly troubled Chitanda said the family had decided to go ahead with burial without any post mortem conducted but authorities had declined to release the body without the report.

“The doctor came in the morning. We have been here since 8 am. We were told that the hospital has no gloves. We offered to buy our own gloves so that we will be given our deceased relative but an official told us that the gloves from pharmacies are contaminated. Now we are stranded.

“With the prevailing economic situation, it is so difficult to host and feed mourners for two days. At the same time, we cannot send them away either.”

Similarly, a Gokwe family which suffered the double misfortune of losing both parents at the same time could not access its mother’s body from the hospital.

The family was still planning her burial when the second tragedy befell it.

The father was involved in a fatal road accident and died on the spot while driving from Gokwe to Harare to ferry his wife’s body.

The family was planning to ferry both bodies to their rural home this Tuesday before burial on Wednesday.

Family spokesperson Mercury Chikowo could not hide his frustrations with authorities.

“We are in pain already. What we are encountering is worsening our pain. When a loved one dies, they stop breathing but we still want them to rest in peace.

“We have been told to come back tomorrow, and the doctor told us that he cannot perform post-mortem because the hospital has no gloves. How is that possible!” Chikowo said.

“We feel that there is more to this. This is not just about lack of gloves.”

Another couple, which spoke to intended to collect the body of its child who succumbed to burns, equally, expressed disappointment saying it feared the body condition could deteriorate as the burns were serious.

Reached for comment, Health Minister Obadiah Moyo laughed off the claims and referred further questions to Ministry secretary Gerald Gwinji.

Harare Central Hospital, one of Zimbabwe’s biggest referral health institutions, is in dire straits; from perennial water woes to the now usual shortages of all medical consumables as well as leaking roofs, peeling floors and cracked walls which harbour all sorts of bacteria.

The hospital has a new mortuary building that has been stuck at window level for over a decade.