While dead bodies have been rotting at the Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in Lilongwe for over a month due to broken down cold rooms, Minister of Health Catherine Gotani Hara says she is not aware of the stench that has engulfed the referral health facility.
Stench engulfed the atmosphere at KCH on Monday. When The Nation crew arrived at the hospital’s car park around 10am, the stench was so strong that the immediate conclusion was that there was a dead dog rotting nearby.
However, it was later discovered that the smell was not that of a ‘rotting dead dog’ but rather it was coming from the hospital wards a few metres away from the mortuary.
By then, even mortuary attendants had closed their offices because the stench “is just too much.”
Said one mortuary attendant: “It is not a place one would work. It is too much. We can’t go there unless it is cleaned.”
Seated on lawns around the stinking mortuary vicinity were people who had gone to the hospital to collect dead bodies of their relations. However, they were asked to wait until the place was sanitised by Lilongwe City Council and other officials who worked overtime to make the situation bearable.
But by 2.30pm, Gotani Hara was not aware about the situation.
She said: “I am not aware of that because I was in an HIV meeting all morning, but I will get back to you.”
KCH deputy hospital administrator Mable Chinkhata said in an interview the cold rooms had stopped working due to the power overload caused by the hospital’s extension cords, saying the situation should normalise by the end of March.
She said: “Some of the cold rooms [in the mortuary] stopped working due to continuous power failure, but we are working to solve the situation. We have also called engineers to fix the compressors in the cold rooms.”
But a hospital source who spoke on condition of anonymity said for three weeks, the mortuary has been operating using one cold room. The source said the rising number of unclaimed dead bodies brought by police further worsened the situation.
According to the source, one cold room is supposed to take at least 18 bodies, but with the crisis, over 30 dead bodies were heaped in one cold room.
The source said the floor is covered with maggots and green flies.
At 3.33pm on Monday, Ministry of Health spokesperson Henry Chimbali said there was pressure on the sole working cold room due to unclaimed bodies.
“KCH management are negotiating with the company that maintains the cold rooms to work on them and also facilitating a payment for the service to be rendered,” he said.
KCH caters for all the nine districts in the Central Region with a population of six million. It is also a referral centre for some cases from the Northern Region.
Several mortuaries in district hospitals, including Mchinji, have been out of use for durations ranging from a month to almost a year.