Wednesday 21 August 2019

University Hospital Waterford mortuary is to get a mobile refrigerated unit

University Hospital Waterford. Photo: Tony Gavin
University Hospital Waterford. Photo: Tony Gavin

Eilish O Regan

The hospital at the centre of shocking revelations that some dead bodies were left leaking fluids in its mortuary corridor, will pay for a refrigerated unit to be installed in the next one to two weeks, it emerged today.

University Hospital Waterford was at the centre of distressing revelations this week that its mortuary was so cramped and lacking in temperature control that dead bodies had to be placed in the corridor and in some cases they decomposed forcing families to have closed coffin funerals.

A spokeswoman for the hospital told Independent.ie that in the immediate term, a mobile refrigerated unit will be on site, installed and available for use within one to two weeks.

She said that a “short to medium term plan of a minor extension to the existing mortuary build, and an additional refrigeration unit will be on site and available for use in eight to ten weeks.”

Earlier the spokeswoman would only provide general details of what the interim measures involved but was pressed to proved more information.

The mortuary facilities in Waterford were described as so inferior that they are causing “almost unspeakable distress to relatives".

Prof Rob Landers, one of a number of pathologists who signed the letter to the HSE last October, said the mortuary was struggling to care for the deceased in cramped facilities which left them with a lack of storage and bodies lying on trolleys in the corridor “leaking body fluids” on to the floor.

A lack of proper temperature control also meant some bodies decomposed and forced closed-coffin funerals.

The doctors said the “trauma imposed on the bereaved is almost unspeakable.” The cramped facilities "expose the public to the noises and odours of a working post-mortem".

Staff are working in an “unsafe environment” and exposed to infection and chemical risks. This also extends to gardai, State pathologists, undertakers and embalmers.

They warned it is only a matter for time before a high profile case will result in widespread adverse and reputational damage

The need for a new mortuary was agreed by the HSE in 2006 but it took the publication of last October’s letter in the Waterford News and Star newspaper to secure action.

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