In an effort to decrease the number of unclaimed or unidentified bodies in state mortuaries, MEC for Health, Mr Hope Papo, has announced that the Gauteng Forensic Pathology Service is developing a comprehensive Mortuary Management System.
5352 unclaimed bodies were unidentified between January 2010 and October 2013 in Gauteng. The proposed system aims to assist the department to promptly resolve cases and enable users to produce and store electronic records and reports on unclaimed and unidentified bodies.
“As a department, we noted and identified in-migration to urban areas as one of the contributing factors to the issue. People reside in squatter camps where there are no fixed addresses and we have also found that a majority of these people are foreign nationals or people from other provinces, which makes it difficult to trace their loved ones,” stated MEC Papo.
“The other challenge is with the grossly mutilated, decomposed bodies and bones where fingerprints cannot be taken to identify the deceased,” added the MEC. Another factor is the financial burden on family members to identify the bodies and provide an appropriate burial, so instead they choose to leave the body for the state to bury.
The new system is set to improve collaboration and information sharing with the community, police, community safety department and researchers in dealing with unclaimed bodies and those who have died of unnatural causes, such as road accidents, trauma, violence and other undetermined causes.
The department has the capacity to develop the system internally by using internal skills and resources. Presently the department is concentrating on the development and testing of the system in Gauteng, and therefore has yet to announce plans to administer the system nationally.
The Gauteng Department of Health is optimistic of the system’s capabilities to bring down the number of cases of unclaimed and unidentified bodies at its facilities. The system has been under development since last year; the first phase of the system will be completed by the end of June 2014 and is expected to be fully functional by the end of March 2015.