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Papua New Guinea hospital warns of mass burial of 150 bodies as morgue overflows
11:05 pm GMT+12, 09/01/2019, Papua New Guinea

Port Moresby hospital director says one in five bodies are not collected by loved ones, creating a capacity headache.

A major hospital in Papua New Guinea has warned there will be a mass burial of 154 bodies held in its overflowing morgue unless family members collect the bodies in the next two weeks.

Port Moresby general hospital, in the Papua New Guinean capital, has issued the call for people to claim their relatives’ remains, saying the bodies of 68 women, 64 men and 22 children were lying in the morgue awaiting collection.

The mass burial will take place in two weeks at the public cemetery at Nine-Mile, a settlement in Port Moresby.

Dr Paki Molumi, the hospital’s director of medical services, said the lack of capacity in the morgue meant mass burials were a common feature at the hospital, with five taking place in 2018.

Molumi said up to 20% of bodies were not collected by their families, requiring the hospital to bury them and he anticipated that of the 154 bodies, the hospital would eventually bury 50 or 60 of them.

“What we want to do is have people come to claim the bodies, if people don’t claim them we won’t have enough space in the morgue,” he said. “We need people to collect them to make sure that we have good turnaround times, so we don’t have bodies all over the place. We don’t want bodies in the morgue for a long time.”

The hospital’s morgue is built to accommodate 150 bodies – the hospital has been required to store the additional bodies in air conditioned containers.

Molumi said there was a rigorous process in place to try to ensure the body of a person who dies at the hospital is returned to the family for burial. First, the hospital contacts the deceased’s family, council and village leaders. If the body is still unclaimed after one month, the hospital applies to the court, which has to give permission for a mass burial.

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