LIFE IS stressful but as recent events show, so too is death. The squabble over salary payments and conditions at the Forensic Science Centre (FSC), which forced families to delay funerals, as well as reports of problems with refrigeration at the San Fernando mortuary, add undue aggravation and grief to citizens already mourning their loved ones.
These incidents, whether one-off or recurring, paint a picture of a system with little respect for the dead, underlining the need for the State to take greater care in the management of both facilities.
The disturbing back and forth of bodies between the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, the St James Medical Complex, and the FSC is not an ideal situation. According to sources at the FSC, mortuary attendants have been refusing to work, arguing that they are dead tired of the three-month contracts they have been on for the past two years.
The contract agreement sees workers paid two weeks into the new month for the previous month. The Ministry of National Security, which has oversight of the FSC, is clearly aware of the many ongoing issues and assures they are “being worked on and should be rectified soon.” But the breakdown of the work environment should not have occurred in the first place.
There is no excuse for indiscipline. Nor should the violation of contracts be tolerated. But the deeper issue appears to be the workload coupled with a shortage of pathologists. We do not envy the task of Dr Katherine Morris, hired less than a month ago. It is a shame Morris has had to endure such a baptism of fire.
Whoever sits in this difficult chair needs to be supported with sufficient resources to carry out the job and that includes human resources. The State is on record as stating it requires at least three pathologists at the FSC.
Disclosure by the Police Service that it intends to acquire its own forensic centre, as well as the allocation of $10 million in funding for a brand new DNA facility by the ministry suggest the fate of the FSC is one that is up in the air. Come October, Finance Minister Colm Imbert should tell us what the plan is.
Meanwhile, it remains important for the current system to be properly managed to minimise problems. Grieving families, as well as citizens, are more than entitled to ask: Why canât we get things right?
The resolution of the cooling problem in San Fernando notwithstanding, itâs important for the authorities to clearly identify what went wrong so as to anticipate future issues given the sensitivity of this facility. At the very least, all of the families affected by these outages would be consoled by the knowledge that measures are being put in place to prevent recurrences.
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