The Irish government has come under fire after it was revealed that a mortuary in a government-run hospital in Waterford County has lacked proper refrigeration for years, leaving dead corpses leaking bodily fluids all over the floor and creating a serious biohazard problem.
The Irish Times reports loved ones of the deceased were appalled and devastated upon learning their friends and relatives had been left rotting on trolleys at University Hospital Waterford, a bombshell exposed in a letter by four consultant pathologists working at the facility.
What’s worse is that the letter was written back in October, but the hospital – or, rather, the government’s Health Service Executive that runs it – hasn’t yet made any changes to correct the problem. UHW is listed as a "designated cancer centre" on the HSE's website.
The pathologists allege the bodies have been left in warm temperatures, causing them to decompose and leak fluids onto the floor and forcing their loved ones to bury them in closed caskets because of the physical damage. Visitors who’ve come to identify bodies or hold a viewing have been exposed to the “odours of a working postmortem room,” the letter reads. Bodies of those who’ve died of terminal illnesses tend to break down faster, while hospital workers say they’re sending bodies of dead people to their loved ones “in a decomposed state” that their relatives just assume was a result of their illness.
“Bodies decompose in the corridors, leading to closed-coffin funerals with relatives unable to view the remains as a result of gaseous decomposition. The trauma imposed on the bereaved is almost unspeakable,” the letter reads.
Health officials at the hospital are also warning of environmental and health risksposed by the decomposing bodies and unfiltered facility, saying infection and hazardous air quality are a real problem. According to the four pathologists behind the letter, the hospital’s morgue has been deemed “unfit” for use since 2004, the Health Service Executive, established that same year, hasn’t replaced it. The project received money for improvement in 2013, but “no definite commitment from the HSE to fund the completion of this project other than it is queued for funding without a defined timeframe,” the letter reads.
According to the Health Services Executive’s own website, the government agency is “provides public health and social care services to everyone living in Ireland.” The agency, established to "modernise and improve how healthcare is delivered in Ireland," has come under increasing scrutiny since it became operational in 2005, including for a rash of cancer misdiagnoses in 2008.
Shortly after the damning report was released this week, Ireland's Minister for Health Simon Harris issued a hasty response, vowing construction of a new mortuary building at UHW will start “before the end of this year.”
Until then, if you live in South Kilkenny or Waterford County, just try extra hard to stay alive.