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University Hospital Waterford to address reports of dead bodies left on trolleys in corridors

One of the hospital’s pathologists Professor Rob Landers said that conditions in the mortuary are “quite primitive”.

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Updated Apr 24th 2019, 12:51 PM

CONCERNS HAVE BEEN raised about dead bodies left on trolleys in the corridors of the mortuary at University Hospital Waterford.

According to a letter, first seen by the Waterford News and Star and the Irish Times, ”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 is signed by four consultant pathologists at the hospital who warn that bodies decomposing in the mortuary’s corridors lead to closed-coffin funerals, as well as “expose the public visiting hospitals to the odours of a postmortem room”.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show, one of the signatories of the letter, Professor Rob Landers said that conditions in the mortuary are “quite primitive”.

The conditions, I suppose to put it bluntly, pose a risk both to staff, visitors and public at the mortuary and they afford very little dignity for the deceased bodies that come down to us.

The letter calls for urgent remedial action at the mortuary and postmortem facilities, and was sent to Gerry O’Dwyer, CEO of the South-South West Hospital Group, which oversees University Hospital Waterford. 

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, the South-South West Hospital Group said:

“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.

Dr Landers had said that although funding for a new mortuary had been granted in the HSE’s capital plan in 2013, he had informally been told there was no intention to fund it until 2022 or 2023.

This afternoon, the hospital group updated their statement to say that it was a priority to replace the mortuary at University Hospital Waterford.

“This development is included in the Draft Capital Plan sent to the Department of Health for approval. We would expect to progress to selecting a contractor and commencing construction of a new mortuary in the final quarter of this year, with a twenty month construction programme.  

“The design phase of the development has already been completed and the estimated cost of construction is €5m.”

Statement from Simon Harris

The Irish Patients Association said the incident was a “terrible testimony of how those deceased and their loved ones right to dignity in death have been violated”.

“We have called on the Minister for Health and the Taoiseach that as a mark of respect to the families of the deceased that they offer their sincere apologies,” the group said.

The group has also asked the Minister for Health to investigate how this happened.

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, Minister for Health Simon Harris said that he’s made contact with the management of University Hospital Waterford this morning, “who have assured him that they are to undertake interim measures while awaiting the replacement Mortuary Building”.

“The Minister also received confirmation from the HSE that plans for the new mortuary are at an advanced stage and it is expected the request for tender will be issued shortly with the expectation that construction will commence before the end of this year.

The Minister has made it clear to the HSE that this project needs to be progressed as a matter of priority and funding will be provided.

Reaction

Sinn Féin TD for Waterford David Cullinane said what was reported in the letter was “truly shocking”.

He said that the government needs to urgently invest in the mortuary and post-mortem facilities at the hospital.

Fianna Fáil TD for Waterford Mary Butler said: “The fact that four pathologists had to put pen to paper illustrates how frustrated consultants are with the way the health service is being mismanaged by this government. Even the most basic services are suffering.”

Labour Party Health spokesperson Alan Kelly said the reports were “horrifying”, adding that the HSE and government officials must “react swiftly” to the “appalling conditions”.

The conditions described by consultant pathologists in UHW make for absolutely grim, stomach-churning reading.

“A relative passing away can be an upsetting time for any family but to add the conditions in which relatives are getting bodies of loved ones back from UHW is surely adding indescribable levels of grief and hurt into families.

“The scale of the trolley crisis is already demoralising enough for the living, this type of practice must not be the norm for the dead too.”

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