Some employees at Victoria Chitepo Provincial Hospital in Mutare are reportedly touting the services of a private funeral parlour, Sojourner Funeral Parlour, to bereaved families.
The staff members involved in the scam are reportedly being paid an average of US$50 whenever they hand over corpses to the private funeral parlour of people who would have died while admitted to the hospital.
Bereaved families without funeral policies are allegedly told that the hospital’s mortuary is not working and then forced to engage Sojourner’ss services.
In some cases, the bodies of people who die while in admission are handed over to the funeral parlour without the consent of the deceased person’s relatives.
The deceased’s relatives would be told to negotiate the price for burial services with Sojourner.
Tongai Nongerai, an employee of the Ministry of Health and Child Care at the mortuary wing, is reportedly attached to Sojourner Funeral Parlour.
He divulged to The Manica Post that taking the body to their rented Doves mortuary would cost US$50.
Nongerai also said the cheapest charge for all the funeral services was US$300.
But Doves Funeral Services spokesperson, Innocent Tshuma, told the publication that his company had nothing to do with Sojourner Funeral Parlour. He said:
We do not rent out our mortuaries to anyone. We are also aware of those funeral parlours that have their vehicles parked just outside hospitals as they wait for bodies.
Sojourner Funeral Parlour owner, Tafadzwa Mukwati, admitted that Nongerai works for the company on a part-time basis. Said Mukwati:
While Mr Nongerai is employed by Government through the Ministry of Health and Child Care, he also serves us on a part-time basis and there is nothing wrong with that.
On 19 February, a bereaved family from Gwese Village, Mutare, discovered that the body of their deceased relative was not in the Victoria Chitepo Provincial Hospital mortuary when they came to collect it. Said a relative who spoke on condition of anonymity:
We left the hospital to get some medication that was prescribed for our niece who was admitted to the hospital. Upon our return, we were informed that she had passed on.
What disturbed us the most is that the body of the deceased was not in the hospital ward or the mortuary.
Instead, it had already been placed in the Sojourner Funeral Parlour vehicle.
We were not happy about it and we had a heated argument with the authorities over the issue.
Mukwati described the incident as a minor misunderstanding and insisted that his company’s operations are lawful.
Victoria Chitepo Provincial Hospital Medical Superintendent, Dr Dorcas Masanga-Mutede did not respond to questions sent to her, The Manica Post reported.
Meanwhile, reports suggest that a committee has been established to investigate the issue after Manicaland Provincial Medical Director, Dr Simon Nyadundu intervened.