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Police morgue choked – 400 unclaimed bodies

The Police Hospital Mortuary in Accra faces an imminent crisis, if steps are not taken soon to bury about 400 bodies, most of whom are unclaimed.

The hospital authorities hit the buffers early this month when the people of Bortianor refused to allow them to bury some unclaimed bodies at the cemetery at Mile 11.

The Medical Director of the hospital, DCOP Dr Godfried Asiamah, said the unclaimed bodies, which had been at the mortuary for more than three months, comprised mainly accident victims, street dwellers and insane persons whose identities were difficult to establish.

He told the Daily Graphic that the continuous storage of the bodies could break down the fridges of the mortuary.

To avoid that situation, he said, the hospital took steps to bury all the unidentified bodies in mass graves but the effort fell through when the people of Bortianor refused the bodies.

He said a similar exercise to decongest the mortuary was undertaken last April with the burial of 125 unclaimed bodies at the Mile 11 Cemetery at Bortianor.

Statistics at the hospital indicate a steady rise in the number of unidentified bodies sent to the hospital's mortuary. In 2007 for instance, 278 unclaimed bodies were buried while 373 were buried in 2008.

DCOP Dr Asiamah attributed the trend to road accidents in which those who died were brought to the hospital by the police or volunteers on the scene.

Additionally, he said whenever people died in the streets and their relatives did not come forward to claim their bodies, the police collected and brought them to the hospital's mortuary.

"Numerous people die in the streets. They are picked up by the police and they end up in our mortuary," he stressed, pointing out that the difficulty was always with people who died in such circumstances without any identification tags on them.

DCOP Dr Asiamah said the medical officers conducted post-mortem, while the investigative team conducted investigations into the circumstances leading to such deaths.

Thereafter, he said, his outfit made announcements in the media about the dead bodies for their relatives to come out to identify and claim them.

However, he said, on many occasions people did not come forward to identify and claim the bodies.

The Medical Director said the police were compelled under the circumstances to organise mass burials for the unclaimed bodies to decongest the mortuary fridges.

He explained that the fridges would break down if he bodies were not disposed of to make way for new bodies.

"If we do not decongest the fridges, they will break down, the bodies will then get rotten and release bad stench," he explained.

DCOP Dr Asiamah said the hospital authorities liaised with the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) to pick the bodies in refuse trucks to the Mile 11 Cemetery.

According to him, his outfit used the internally generated funds to pay for the transportation of the bodies, which affected the financial standing of the hospital.

He said the hospital authorities did not organise mass funeral for the unclaimed bodies before the mass burial.

DCOP Dr Asiamah appealed to the public to report to the police whenever their relatives got missing and to respond to announcements for the identification of dead bodies.

He admitted that some relatives intentionally refused to come and claim the bodies of their relatives, due to he lack of funds to organise funerals. Some of the deceased might not have enjoyed good relations with their relatives while alive.

DCOP Dr Asiamah appealed to the public to always carry their identity cards to facilitate identification during emergency situation.

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