Unsightly scene: How Meru hospital raced unclaimed bodies on streets

Mortuary attendants

Mortuary attendants in Meru carry bodies on a stretcher when they disposed of 143 unclaimed bodies on February 4, 2023.

Photo credit: Courtesy

Residents living near the Meru Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) were shocked at the way the authorities disposed of 143 unclaimed bodies.

With the cemetery located a few metres from the morgue, attendants placed uncovered bodies on a stretcher and dashed across the road in full glare of residents who were going to work. The exercise which began in the wee hours was completed at 8 am on Saturday.

“The ugly scene left us shocked. Why did they carry the bodies on a stretcher without even caring to cover them? I saw it and I am still in shock,” said a resident who requested not to be identified.

The residents suggested that there was need to establish a cemetery where bodies that have been abandoned should be buried. “They should put them in body bags and dispose them properly because we don’t want to witness the scene again,” said Joseph Mwiti, a resident.

MTRH last week reported a crisis after its mortuary filled up to capacity following delays by the courts to give disposal orders for unclaimed bodies.

The morgue chambers have a capacity of 60 bodies but were holding 319 by the time the 142 bodies were disposed of.

Nyambene Hospital mortuary which has a capacity of 30 bodies was holding 260 bodies when the Maua court granted an order for disposal. Miathene Level Four Hospital has a capacity of 15 bodies.

Mr Meshack Nyingi, the Public Health Officer said after disposal, there were still 165 bodies lying at the mortuary with the department seeking a court order to dispose them.

Identifying relatives

“We have also come up with a mechanism of identifying relatives of the deceased including liaising with chiefs and ward administrators so that we don’t have to dispose of many bodies,” he said.

“Most of the unclaimed bodies were brought in by police from crime scenes including bushes, rivers and new born babies that were born prematurely or thrown away after birth,” he said.

Concerning the manner of disposal, Mr Nyinge said they were coming up with a plan that will ensure the “unsightly” scene is not witnessed in the future.

MTRH acting chief executive officer Dr Gacheri Kathiiri said the facility would increase the morgue capacity to 90 bodies by installing two more freezers that will hold 15 bodies each.