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By Peter Korugl

LAE, Papua New Guinea (April 13, 1999 - The National)---Bodies are rotting at the Angau Memorial Hospital morgue here and the rats are having a feast because the mortuary's refrigeration unit is out of order, according to reports.

The hospital's management yesterday confirmed the state of the mortuary yesterday and called on relatives of the dead people in the morgue to claim the bodies by tomorrow.

The hospital said it would bury the unclaimed bodies in a mass grave after the deadline.

"The management is now arranging with the Office of the Coroner for approval for mass burial of unclaimed bodies which have been left in the morgue since last year and are not removed by Wednesday," the hospital's Chief Executive Officer, Ms. Margaret Samei, said.

Ms. Samei said the refrigeration system at the mortuary was malfunctioning and it would take about three weeks to repair the system.

She said the work would be carried out in three phases.

Under phase one, temporary work will be carried out on the refrigeration unit at the mortuary followed by the building of an overhead cover, shelving and plumbing.

Ms. Samei said under phase two, a drainage system will also be built for a new portable refrigeration container unit that has been bought by the Health Department.

The new unit is to be installed near the existing mortuary and the container is to be used as an additional facility.

She said overloading of the current unit had resulted in the refrigeration problem.

Ms Samei said a major overhaul and replacement of the existing unit would be carried out at a cost of K 10,000 under phase three.

Ms Samei said the public should not bring in any new bodies to the morgue until further notice except for deaths from motor vehicle accidents, while other accidents and deaths should be taken to the hospital for a doctor’s examination and death verification.

Meanwhile, the hospital's fleet of vehicles have also been vandalized and all the cars are off the road while the hospital is looking for money to repair them.

"People in the community must understand that there is no money to fix medical equipment, vehicles or to repair damage done to hospitals and health centers," said Ms. Samei.

She said it was costing money to hire security and this money could be better spent on patient care.

Community leaders on Wednesday issued a strong warning during a meeting that health services in the city were at great risk of collapsing.

The said the community needed to take an active role in keeping health services going.

"The community must wake up and realize that the next time they need a doctor, the doctor might be there but he will have not equipment to work with or no transport to get to the hospital to treat patients. Surely people in the community can understand this," Ms. Samei said.

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