Mortuary attendants’ threat... A proactive approach needed

BY: Doreen Hammond
The writer - Doreen Hammond
The writer - Doreen Hammond

Mortuary attendants in our various hospitals have threatened to go on strike if their poor conditions of service are not enhanced to enable them to offer their best. According to them, their meagre salary, as well as allowances, have left them perpetually assigned to hardship.

In a notice to the Ministry of Health and the National Labour Commission about their intention to resort to a strike action, the workers said if their grievances were not addressed by November 19, they would strike on November 20, 2018, adding that several attempts to resolve the matter with their employer had yielded no results.

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When I read the story about their threat, I shivered and started seeing all manner of visuals. I envisioned us without mortuary services for just a day and got frightened. How and who will preserve the dead were some of the immediate questions that came to my mind. We can only hope that the ministry will be proactive and pre-empt any unpleasant situation.

This has become necessary on the back of our consistent demonstration of lack of proactiveness in dealing hands on with situations. Sometimes, gaping potholes are left unfixed until an accident happens and souls are lost before remedial actions are taken.

We are fond of passing the buck and blaming everybody else but ourselves; when the harm is done, then the blame game starts. We cannot wait to see what happens on the date given because it would definitely be more of an unpleasant and unhealthy situation for the living than the dead. Then also will be the international embarrassment that we will have to endure as a nation.


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The threat reminds me of a feature article with headline: “Our friend the mortuary man” I wrote in 2011. The article drew attention to the plight of this category of workers in the health sector who had been relegated to the background with regard to training, conditions of service and a non- structured career progression. Unfortunately, it was brushed aside as usual and their plight has persisted to date, culminating in the threat to strike.

Mortuary attendants are people we do not like to go too close to but the world being what it is; death is part of life and whether we like it or not, once in a while we come face to face with them on the loss of a relation.

Their job involves removing bodies for post mortem to the theatre and for embalmment, packing bodies into the fridges, picking up bodies from the wards to the morgue and cleaning.

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Some even do the job of a prosector. They are trained on the job to open up bodies for pathologists to do the post mortem.

In spite of the risks involved in their jobs such as occasional cuts from the surgical blade, pricks from the needles and susceptibility to diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and cholera, their salaries are so meagre. It is common knowledge that they depend on the benevolence of families who patronise the services of the morgue but should we leave them in such plight? I am reliably informed that in other countries, they are well remunerated.
Professor Agyeman Badu Akosa, a pathologist, explained in that feature story that the job of mortuary attendants is “very necessary for the work in the morgue”.

Mortuary attendants are workers we cannot do without and we need to review their conditions of service in order to retain and attract them in their vocation for the benefit of society.

We have disregarded the welfare of mortuary attendants for far too long and the earlier we woke up the better it will be for our total health care. Conscious efforts must be initiated to attract and retain some best hands into this all-important field.

In any case, so long as we remain mortals, we will definitely need their services sooner or later and the earlier we ensured that we have well- trained and motivated mortuary attendants in the country to assist pathologists as obtains in most civilised societies, the better it will be for us. A stitch in time…

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