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195 Bodies In Morgue - Why Fees Must Go Up

Dr Duane Sands, Minister of Health. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune staff

Dr Duane Sands, Minister of Health. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune staff

By Rashad Rolle

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

ONE hundred and ninety-five dead bodies are being kept at Princess Margaret Hospital’s Morgue as of Wednesday – triple the number the facility was built to maintain, according to Health Minister Dr Duane Sands.  

Many dead bodies are never collected - as the government discovered on gaining office - and the maintenance cost to the Public Hospitals Authority for acquiring coolers, ensuring uninterrupted power and covering “pauper burials” for uncollected bodies is considerable.  

Dr Sands revealed this information yesterday while explaining to The Tribune why the PHA, burdened to cover such costs through its annual budget, must begin to charge fees to raise money so people can be provided with adequate healthcare services.

To adequately fund its operations, PHA must raise as much as $30 million per year beyond the more than $200 million it receives from the Consolidated Fund annually, Dr Sands believes. The PHA intends to charge morgue storage fees, among others, in the next fiscal year and will charge a penalty to keep bodies at the morgue beyond a specified time frame. The fees relate to a variety of PHA services. 

Dr Sands said at any given time, between 180 and 200 bodies are kept at the Rand Morgue. Many of the bodies have been there since before the FNM were elected in May last year.

“In general, the idea is that individuals do not feel any urgency to remove their loved ones and part of this ties into the cultural requirement for a funeral,” he added. “A funeral is no less than $3,000 and that’s for a barebones funeral; typically, you’re looking at $5,000 or $6,000 more. Many simply don’t have the means. The situation has been a longstanding vexing issue.”

Under the Health Services (Tobacco Advertising and Sales) Rules Act, the cost for keeping bodies at the morgue for public purposes is $50, but the fee has not been charged over the years.

Meanwhile, Dr Sands said the government pays undertakers $750 per adult and $150 per infant for “pauper” burials.

He said: “These longstanding issues point to a fiscal policy based on a wing and a prayer. If you know you have got to provide $10 per service then you must be able to find the $10. If you are trying to provide $10 per service and you budget only for $8, you cannot provide decent, reasonable, safe service. If we are going to provide a reasonable and safe service and there is a variance between expenditure and funding, there are only several things that you can do. Either decrease expenditure, increase funding or do a little bit of both. What we have decided to do is define the needs of the Bahamian people and to provide those needs as efficiently and safely and appropriately as possible. Some of the funding will be provided through the taxes that come ultimately from the people through the Consolidated Fund. “Some of the funding will come from the revenue generated through the private services of the PHA. Some of the funds will have to come directly from user fees. You cannot allow inefficiency, shrinkage, losses to divert funds from provision of necessary services because that constitutes a direct tax on the people who are least able to afford it. Moving forward we have to acknowledge there is no free lunch. While most of us believe in a powerful God who can make many things happen, hope is not an effective fiscal strategy. Without adequate funding, significant maintenance can’t be scheduled, upgrades are delayed, supplies are difficult to purchase, etc.”

Fees for numerous medical services at public hospitals were legislated in the late 1970s but have never been charged. 

“In truth, hospital authorities have been remiss in terms of duty to collect the treasury’s funds,” Dr Sands said. “Now in part that’s because they were enabled or instructed by the political narrative that healthcare is free.”

Officials are trying to determine how much money PHA would have collected per year had the fees been charged as mandated. 

Dr Sands said the fees that will be charged will be nominal. And contrary to some social media reports, the fees have not yet been applied. 

To maintain so many bodies in a morgue designed to house far fewer, the government has purchased extra coolers over the years.

Of the bodies in the morgue now, 35 are of infants that died during childbirth. They are kept in the morgue’s main cooler; 61 are adults kept in the morgue’s main and satellite extension coolers; five remains are kept in compartment coolers and 94 burnt or decomposed bodies are kept for police/court case purposes in a trailer and/or spill over cooler.

Comments

joeblow 1 month ago

What's the point of raising fees when by his own admission the hospital authorities have not collected the fees as they should have. Why complain? Contract a private (non partisan) collector to collect all outstanding fees and take legal action against those who continue not to pay!

By the way they should take the same stance with outstanding student loans!

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TheMadHatter 1 month ago

Simple problem to solve. Increase the fee for a birth certificate to $750 and invest it in a conservative mutual fund in USA so the money is there when people die. Give the Executor of any Will for anyone who bought the new birth certificate $750 to help pay funeral costs in the cases where a deceased leaves a Will.

If they don't leave a Will or under old or no birth cert then govt just pay as they do now.

Hey....this might even cut down a bit on the plague of bellyswellitis.

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tetelestai 1 month ago

Hatter, can't argue with that logic.

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OldFort2012 1 month ago

Or make use of the Bahamas' plentiful supply of reef sharks. They work for free.

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paul_vincent_zecchino 1 month ago

And those poor sharks are hungry, too. Few people take the time to feed them. Commendable suggestion!

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John 1 month ago

stand up to receive the dunce award

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Porcupine 1 month ago

Anyone else notice that PMH gets 200 million from the government, and that that is the amount lost to corruption according to PM Minnis. Hey , no more excuses. Get the job done. You would think that a medical doctor could get together an operational plan for the countries health system. One that works. Honestly. Just start with the basics of human decency.

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TalRussell 1 month ago

We're flabbergasted a senior spokesperson's for the official office 91,409 voting red 10th May 2017 voiced this morning to this comrade that not only does the Imperial red shirts cabinet wants send corned beefs confiscation policeman's to the simple dwellings front doors near poor peoples - but now threatens go after taxing the bodies of all those peoples lives that done come earthly end. The spokesperson added: “Upping fees on bodies loved ones is definitely not something that any 35 red shirts 10th May 2017 candidates went door to door campaigned on, this is definitely not something that they banged on any of our doors about."

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Sickened 1 month ago

They didn't campaign on a promise to teach you how to type clearly either, but no-one would argue that it is not necessary!

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TalRussell 1 month ago

Ma Comrade Sickened, not likes I gone makes ups 'twas Imperial red shirts who campaigned wearing red shirts... or maybe the 35 red House's MP's, too embarrassed wear they red colours so soon after misleading House and 91,409 red voters over fake Oban signature?

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DWW 1 month ago

Hi my name is Tal and I can't make sense. maybe everyday is 4/20 for me.

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sheeprunner12 1 month ago

Meanwhile .......... Most Out Islands have NO functioning morgues ........ using bathtubs of ice.

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hrysippus 1 month ago

One nine five bodies in the morgue, . . . . . .. .. Hanging over Sands like Damocles' sword, . . . . . .. So when Maynard calls his worker out, . . . . . ... .. To show BPL that he has the clout, . . . . . . ... To have the power all shut down, . . . . . .... ... From Cable Beach to PMH down town, . . . . . ...... Poetic justice if the union's kith or kin, . . . . . ... Are finally laid out at rest within, . . . . . . . .. Dealing with such remains would be a mighty task, . . . .. ... But then Paul Maynard would be just the man to ask.

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birdiestrachan 1 month ago

Even as families grieve they must face increase cost. The Truth is roc wit doc needs money lots of money for travel.

But it is the peoples time this is what they voted for.

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Dawes 1 month ago

If you want to, why don't you offer to pay this increased cost for everyone. Or as normal do you just expect the money to grow on trees and yet complain when taxes go up (well complain as long as your party is not in power, then its the best news ever).

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Sickened 1 month ago

They don't need to put this fee in place immediately, they could put a starting date of say September 1.

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sheeprunner12 1 month ago

The new year for Government begins on July 1.

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vlmarshall 1 month ago

While the reality is that the funding has to come from somewhere I find it rather childish that everything that Tal and Birdie posts has to do with "Red Shirts" or "Minnis". I would opine instead of implementing the new fees just yet, present a plan to enforce and collect the existing fees first. After the first year, it should provide an idea as to the amount of funds that can be generated. Once that is done, then you can amend the fee structure and if still needed introduce additional fees that may be warranted.
In order for us to begin to reduce the current deficit, we have to start collecting fees and taxes from every citizen. Despite the public outcry it has to be done and it has to start somewhere if we ever plan to get any where as a country. One day the sheeple will see that its not political, it's actually just business.

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joeblow 1 month ago

Collecting fees and taxes is one thing, reducing government waste and nonsensical spending is another. We still don't know hot VAT (which was supposed to pay down the national debt) is being spent.

No matter how much a government collects in taxes, they will find a way to waste it!

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sheeprunner12 1 month ago

No one wants to pay their debts & bills ........ but everyone has smartphone, new rides, gucci bag and clothes, and go on vacation ......... #PRIORITIES

That is why we are $8 Billion in debt as a country ...... passing the buck.

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birdiestrachan 1 month ago

Even a child knows that the FNM is the Government and doc Minnis is the head. any taxes they implement lies at their feet it is child's play.

Did it ever occur to the peoples time voters that the reason there are 195 bodies in the morgue is because people do not have the funds to bury their dead.

Sands and doc will end up having to bury many. .

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Dawes 1 month ago

And every adult knows that people have to bring in taxes and fees to pay for things as they don't come out of thin air. And sometimes people have to pay extra as the people who came before didn't pay their way.

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TalRussell 1 month ago

Regardless, everyone in Imperial red cabinet - must believe there is nothing about ways how they've been governing on behalf 91,409 (minis ones since dead and in morgue) voting them 10th May 2017 - which could possibly prevent everyone their Comrade cabinet colleagues from one day making it heaven... it's as if God has no passion struggling poor and near poor who end up hospital morgue.

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John 1 month ago

So basically between the two morgues, they are storing an average of two months accumulation of dead bodies. And since most funerals are planned for two weeks after the death occurs, this does not seem inordinate. And of course, some families claim that when persons die under unusual circumstances weeks may pass before the body is released. and since most adults who die are covered by a death benefit of $600.00, the minister should seek to have this benefit increased to at least $1,200.00, based on his admission of the cost to bury abandoned bodies. he should then seek to have the benefit for unclaimed bodies remitted to the hospital's authority. This would ensure there will be no excessive accumulation of unclaimed bodies and persons who are financially embarrassed can be assured that their loved ones who pass will be interred properly and in a timely manner. Increasing fees on bodies that probably will not be collected in the first instance will not generate additional revenue. In fact if the fees become too costly the result may be more bodies being unclaimed.

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realfreethinker 1 month ago

Here we go again John. Where is the additional $600.00 is coming from?

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John 1 month ago

a slight bump up in NIB contributions, like 1/4 percent between employee and employer That should cover it.

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ashley14 1 month ago

Sounds like a plan, but your government doesn't have that money. Maybe a tax taken out of people's payroll checks. I don't think most would agree. I don't mind paying income tax, it gives our government to keep America great. Everything costs money, but it seems no one wants to pay for it.

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bogart 1 month ago

Given that homicide is one of the leading cause of death if not the leading cause of death in the Bahamas..?.....the increased cost of the morgue should be bourne by the scum who kill them ....instead of the continued stupidity of making the innocent and victims families pay.....didnt anyone learn that the 35 to 4 election result innocent people are fed up while the guilty are rewarded and pampered?.??!!!

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Greentea 1 month ago

So let me understand. People are leaving their loved ones in the morgue from now to neveruary. So if they aren't collecting the bodies who will pay the fees?

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John 1 month ago

And some of the bodies, from time to time, are immigrants. Some illegal where the next of kin cannot be contacted or don’t have the means of securing the body for burial.

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sheeprunner12 1 month ago

Soooooo, do people just leave their family members' carcasses in the Government morgue until they can put together a big party & funeral??????? .......... Unbelievable!!!!!

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Greentea 1 month ago

No. They leave them there and never pick em up. Sometimes funerals get announced and never happen. Especially for these thugs. I am told they bury them 6 to a box. head/tail. Sad. But if they don't care to prepare and the families don't care or can't afford to care, who supposed to care? At least they get buried - eventually.

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bogart 1 month ago

Simple. Unclaimed bodies. Have the bodies used by medical students.

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ashley14 1 month ago

Very Sad! I agree with everyone has a smart phone, designer bags and clothes, and money for cigarettes and booze, but they can't find the money to properly honor their love ones. What has happened to people?

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ashley14 1 month ago

By the way, it's not the governments responsibility to take care of during life or after death. They work for us to make a better life for their citizens, but you have to help yourself. I know a lot of people who whine all the time, but while I'm at work their in bed.

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sheeprunner12 1 month ago

Agreed ........ But we have copied this "welfare" mentality from the First World ...... Where they even pay single mothers "welfare" to have more babies AND healthy but "disabled" people not to work ............ No one wants to accept responsibility for their actions and future anymore .... SAD, SAD, SAD

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ashley14 1 month ago

Yes, and their off spring support themselves the same way. We're trying to require drug testing for people receiving a government check. You should hear them squawking. Why not, to work for most companies you are drug popped, even McDonald's. If they can buy drugs, cigarettes and booze then they don't deserve free money. People are lazy. These are also the people that whine all the time.

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BahamaRed 4 weeks ago

How about jobs actually give employees insurance that include death benefits. Let each employee pay monthly into the insurance plan and upon death the benefit is paid directly to the funeral home and the balance given to a beneficiary.

They do it in the USA, why not in backward land Bahamas.

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