Remains 'decomposing' on trolleys at University Hospital Waterford because of 'lack of refrigeration facilities'
A lack of refrigeration facilities and cramped conditions has led to a situation where bodies of the deceased are being placed on hospital trolleys and are decomposing, a letter from four pathologists to the HSE has stated.
They say that corpses have leaked bodily fluids into corridors and many families have had to have closed-coffin funerals for their relatives because of the condition of their remains.
This, they say, causes "almost unspeakable" distress to families.
The conditions were highlighted by the consultant pathologists in a letter to Gerry O’Dwyer, chief executive of the South – South West Hospital Group in Cork last October.
But they say no significant changes have been implemented since then.
The letter, first seen by the Waterford News and Star, is signed by consultant pathologists Prof Rob Landers, Dr Fergus MacSweeney, Dr Nigam Shah and Dr Christine Shilling, all of University Hospital Waterford (UHW).
"Due to inadequate body storage and refrigeration facilities, most bodies lie on trolleys in corridors, often leaking body fluids on to the floor," the letter says.
"Bodies decompose in the corridors, leading to closed-coffin funerals with relatives unable to view the remains as a result of gaseous decomposition. The trauma imposed on the bereaved is almost unspeakable," it adds.
"The cramped facilities expose the public to the noise and odours of a working postmortem room when visiting the public areas of the mortuary for identification/viewing purposes and funerals," the four explained.
The pathologists’ letter warned that the mortuary poses an environmental and health risks to the public, because of the danger of infection spreading and unfiltered air being circulated.
The bodies of people who suffered terminal illnesses are prone to decompose quicker than those who have died of natural causes, a factor which has been worsened by the refrigeration problems at UHW.
The doctors have called for urgent remedial action at the mortuary and an improvement to postmortem facilities, saying existing conditions are a "gross affront to the dignity of the deceased and the bereaved".
They say that unless urgent steps are taken they could be left with no option but to cease work in the mortuary.
The four said the mortuary was deemed unfit for purpose in 2004, but the HSE had failed to sort it out.
They explained that there was no definite commitment or defined time-frame for improvement from the HSE to fund the the project despite the fact that a plan won capital approval in 2013.
In a statement to Independent, the HSE confirmed that University Hospital Waterford has recently received approval for a new replacement Mortuary Building.
"It is expected that the request for tender will be issued shortly with the expectation that construction will commence before the end of this year. University Hospital Waterford is currently examining interim arrangements to address the issues raised," they added.