From the news desk

Mortuary backlog reduced to 48hr waiting period

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Amid widespread anger and distress for grieving families, the Western Cape Department of Health has reduced the waiting period for Muslim autopsies from six days to two days. This was confirmed in a meeting with the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) held in Cape Town on Tuesday. This week’s meeting was a follow-up to a special meeting called one month ago between the MJC and the MEC of Health Nomafrench Mbombo after mortuaries were not able to complete post-mortems within the pre-agreed customary 24-hr burial procedure in Islam.

Statistics presented by the provincial Department of Health on Tuesday indicate that after one month there was a reduction in the timeline for the release of Muslim bodies from six days to three days and then to 48-hours. The department further stated the delay arose from the late identification of bodies.

“The MJC promised to assist with the identification process by using social media and radio to share information of the deceased in order to find the families,” said the chairperson of the Cemetery Board, Shaykh Riad Fataar.

The department also agreed to implement further measures to ensure that the backlog of autopsies is cleared. Included in the agreement is that mortuary staff will not be taking leave over the December period so that any further backlogs can be cleared.

“Whilst we are happy that the Department is willing to assist in this process, we continue to emphasize that Muslim bodies must be returned to the families within the agreed 24-hrs,” Shaykh Fataar continued.

In October, there was a public outcry when a number of Muslim families had to wait more than a week for the bodies of their loved ones to be released from the mortuary. A group of Muslim undertakers had threatened legal action, but an MJC meeting with the Health department had provided interim relief measures. Amongst the reasons provided by the department was that due to the increase in the case load, cases could only be allocated and autopsies performed in chronological order.

The ulema body said it would continue to monitor the situation daily and urged that the 24-hr priority agreement apply, especially to innocent victims of crime, accident victims and those who died in Hospital.

The MEC approached the provincial legislature to assist with the delay at Western Cape Mortuaries but budget restraints mean nothing substantial can be done at this moment.

In attendance at the meeting was the Western Cape Health MEC, Nomafrench Mbombo, alongside Head of the Health Department, Dr Beth Engelbrecht; Head of Tygerber Forensics Pathology, Ms Thomson; Chief Director General Specialist and Emergency Services, Dr Saadiq Kariem; MJC President Shaykh Irafaan Abrahams, MJC second Deputy President, Shaykh Riad Fataar and other Exec members. Also present was two members of the MJC Cemetery MANCOM (undertakers), Abdullah Slamang and Yaghya Hartley from the Mitchell’s Plain Islamic Trust.

A follow-up meeting is scheduled for end January 2018.


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