- An East London family found out a week after the funeral of a family member that they had buried a stranger.
- The bungle was caused by Frere Hospital mortuary workers.
- This is a second Eastern Cape hospital in the news for such a mistake in less than a month.
“I received a phone call from the Frere Hospital mortuary manager… seven days after we buried my aunt, asking me when we were planning to fetch my aunt’s body from the mortuary.
“When I asked what she meant because we buried her a week ago already, she dropped the phone.”
This was the shocking revelation from Mcebisi Dyonase, who thought he had buried his aunt, only to discover seven days after the funeral that they had buried a stranger due to a bungle at Frere Hospital’s mortuary in East London.
The Eastern Cape health department, which manages the hospital, has since apologised for the incident.
To add insult to injury, the family could not even view the body because 56-year-old Nomawethu Mbishi’s cause of death was certified as Covid-19 – only for the test results to come back negative, said Dyonase.
Mbishi was admitted at Frere Hospital on 4 July and died two days later from what the hospital said was Covid-19.
Despite results coming back three days later, proving that she had tested negative for the virus, the family was denied a chance to view the body, said Dyonase.
“The coffin was wrapped in plastic and no one could touch it,” said Dyonase.
He said they buried a person they thought was his aunt on 13 July during a funeral service held at Village 7 in Ncerha, outside East London.
Dyonase said he received the call on Monday evening from someone who introduced themselves as the mortuary manager.
“After she dropped the call, possibly from shock, after I told her that we buried her already, I didn’t hear from her again. I decided to ask around for a cellphone number of someone who works at the mortuary,” said Dyonase.
Having tracked down the number of the municipal manager, “she confirmed and apologised to me”, Dyonase said.
Frere Hospital acting CEO Dr James Thomas invited Dyonase and his relatives to a meeting at the hospital to view the body on Thursday morning.
In an interview after the meeting, Dyonase said: “We viewed the body. It is my aunt. We buried [the] wrong person.”
Asked about the outcome of the meeting with Thomas, Dyonase said Thomas apologised and said the hospital will pay the costs of the second funeral.
“They also agreed to our request that they will delegate officials from the hospital, who will go to our village and inform the community of what they had done,” said Dyonase.
“Dr Thomas admitted the fault was theirs and that they were very sorry,” added Dyonase.
He said Thomas said he will approach the local magistrate and apply for an exhumation order, so they can dig up the person who was buried.
“He said the application is a process that will take time, so they will start by burying our aunt first and exhume the other body later,” Dyonase added.
Eastern Cape health spokesperson Siyanda Manana confirmed the body mix up and the meeting.
“We would like to extend our sincere apology to the family for this unfortunate error. We will do our best to make the situation less painful than it is.”
Frere, in East London, is the second government hospital to have made a body mix up after Uitenage Provincial Hospital caused a family to bury a stranger on 28 June.
News24 reported that the bungle happened after a retired nurse, 67, who worked at the same hospital where her husband, 79, died, was prevented from viewing his body due to Covid-19 rules.