BELIZE CITY, Wed. Sept. 15, 2021– The number of dead bodies at the national referral hospital, the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, this week exceeded the maximum storage capacity at the hospital’s morgue — a crisis that prompted the KHMH’s acting CEO, Timothy Seguro, to go on local media to urge the loved ones of the deceased persons to retrieve their bodies so that the undue pressure on the morgue’s storage capacity can be reduced.
Seguro indicated that the morgue is typically capable of storing 21 bodies, but when one of the facility’s storage units stopped working two weeks ago, that storage capacity was virtually halved — with the morgue currently being able to house only 12 bodies while the malfunctioning unit undergoes repairs by the Forensics Department.
As of yesterday, there were 15 unclaimed bodies at the hospital — three more than what the morgue can currently store. Those three bodies are currently being stored by the Forensics Department, says CEO Seguro.
And while it is expected that the malfunctioning unit will soon be operational again, Seguro is expecting that the number of bodies at the KHMH will exceed the morgue’s 21-body capacity “in no time”, due to the current spike in the rate of deaths at the hospital.
It is to be noted that the KHMH’s operational regulations stipulate that the bodies of COVID-19- infected persons are to be removed from the premises within 24 hours, and of the 15 bodies that were being stored in the morgue yesterday, 6 are reportedly the corpses of persons who died as a result of COVID-19.
The cost of preparing a loved one’s body for burial, as well as the high price tag attached to all the accoutrements of funeral services, has often delayed the pickup of bodies from the morgue — with the length of the delay hinging on how long it takes for loved ones to raise the necessary funds, sometimes by seeking assistance from family members who live overseas. According to CEO Seguro, the hospital charges a minimum fee of $100 for the undertaker, plus a $50 fee for each additional night the body is stored.
As a result, the longer the body is left in the morgue, the higher the cost to retrieve that body.
“From ever since I got here about two or three weeks ago, our personnel from the morgue have been calling the relatives and also the undertakers to try and fast track the process, but some people are adamant that they don’t see the need for us to hurry them,” Seguro said.