The Citizen Observatory for Health (OCS) demands the accountability of health professionals who forced the user to transport a corpse from Muhalaze Health Center, in the southern province of Maputo, back to his home, because of alleged lack of conditions for the conservation of it.

According to the user, named Victor Matsinhe, a resident of Muhalaze neighborhood, the woman, who was in her fifth month of pregnancy, died at that health center, but the professionals did not transfer the body to a hospital facility that could preserve the body.

“My wife was five months pregnant, and she was taken to the hospital around 6 p.m. on July 20. We rushed her to the health center because she was bleeding and had intense stomachache”, Matsinhe says.

When we got to the hospital, he adds, “my wife was helped and immediately taken to the room and given some medication, but the pains tended to worsen. A few hours later, the hospital, realizing that the intervention was not working, told me that she would be transferred to General Hospital José Macamo.”

Before the transfer, Mr. Matsine’s wife lost her life.

“She called me to actually say goodbye because she could no longer stand the pain and told me that nothing else could be done. I lost her in my arms”, he continued to tell.

Instead to lose his wife, the man was told the following information: He should transport his wife’s body home because the hospital had no conditions to preserve it.

Desperate, Mr. Matsinhe told the professionals that he was not in a position to transport the corpse home, taking into account that the hospital is responsible for preserving the corpse. However, the hospital insisted that the body should be transported home by the widow.

“I tried to explain that the family could not afford that night to take the body home, but they insisted that it should not remain at the health center”, said the user.

Having no further arguments, the bereaved gentleman was forced to rent a hand truck (colloquially known as Txova), to transport the body home.

“The situation was shocking”, he said, adding that “we spent the night with the deceased and the next day we managed to get money together to do the paperwork and contact a funeral home to take the body to the Morgue of Maputo Central Hospital.”

Even the papers certifying the death were provided to him the next day by the same Health Center. 

What do the Rules Say About Corpse Preservation?

According to several health leaders interviewed by the OCS, when the death occurs inside the hospital, the health center is responsible for preserving the corpse, and should also provide the documents needed to proceed with legal procedures. If there is no cold system for conservation, the health center must transfer the body to another hospital that has the necessary conditions.

It is observed that the Health Center of Muhalaze, in the Maputo province, violated the procedures by forcing the user – a widower as if this were not enough – to transport the body home, even though he had difficulties to do so, especially because the death took place at night.  

To find out about the situation, the OCS called the director of the Muhalaze Health Center. The director said she was aware about the case, condemning “the insensitivity of the nurse who was on duty on the day that the case took place.”

For further clarification on the situation, the director told us to contact the Matola District Health Directorate.

In turn, the Director of Public Health, Ana Maria, explained that the case was already known to the directorate and “work is being carried out in order to determine what really happened.”

“It’s a matter that the board is following up and is giving its due treatment, given the sensitivity of it. The first impression is that the nurse who took care of the case was insensitive.  We are all unanimous in this. However, the case is being followed up”, she stressed.

Apart from the procedures that are followed when it comes to in-hospital deaths, she stated that “we have to look at the human issue. There were failures and there are procedures that are being followed”, she added.

OEM Talks About Legal Procedures

The vice-president of the Order of Nurses (OEM), Grácio Guambe, argues that ambulances are usually meant to transport living people, even if they are dying.

“From the moment, a person loses his life in a certain place, it is no longer the ambulance’s role to evacuate the body. On the other hand, if it is outside the hospital environment, the team from the Forensic Medicine Institute (IML), which is usually linked to the National Criminal Investigation Service (SERNIC), is called in and goes to the scene to do the forensics. Once the forensics are done, they collect the body to the nearest morgue.”

According to Guambe, regardless of the procedures, the municipality is responsible for managing the morgues, is in charge of articulating the preservation of bodies, in situations where the family does not have the financial means to do so.

“Our concept of in-hospital death is a little different. The health professionals may, realizing that the deceased does not have the resources to collect the body, activate the social action services in the absence of means to pay for the expenses”, he explained.

The vice-president also stated that health centers are not indicated to attend serious cases, but they can be reference points, “where the person goes, but when the person loses his life there the treatment begins to be defective.”

However, other information OCS has obtained from some Health Units, with similar conditions to Muhalaze Health Center, such as the Alto-Maé Health Center, the responsibility to transfer the corpse in treatment is undoubtedly with the health unit.

“This case needs to be reported because we, as health care providers, have to be human before anything else. How is it possible to send the user to collect the corpse home”, the source inquired.

Taking into account the situation, the OCS condemns the nurse’s attitude and demands accountability. There is a need to carry out a thorough investigation by the competent authorities, to find out if this is a common practice at the Muhalaze Health Center or if this was the only case. The attitude of the Health Center is against human rights, and is a violation of the rights of the user, as stated in the Charter of the Rights of the User.

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