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UMMC: Morgue ban partly undertakers’ fault

 | May 31, 2012

UMMC explains why it no longer allows the bathing and dressing of bodies at its premises.

PETALING JAYA: Funeral service providers must themselves shoulder some of the blame for losing the convenience of bathing and dressing bodies at the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) morgue, the hospital’s deputy director, Dr Mustafa Mohd Ali, said today.

He said they inconvenienced grieving families when competing to offer their services.

“For many years, we allowed them into our premises, but we have prevented access to our facilities partly due to the inconvenience caused by the undertakers themselves,” he said.

“They would camp outside the morgue. Sometimes, an hour or two before the patient dies, they will start harassing the families to pick their services.”

He admitted that some families would not mind this, but added that others found it distressing. Many had complained to the hospital about it, he said.

Dr Mustafa was commenting on a FMT story that quoted undertakers as saying they were puzzled about the ruling against the preparation for burial of non-Muslim bodies at the morgue.

He said the ban was in fact an early phase of a long-term overhaul of the hospital’s policy on the use of morgue services.

“The board members have decided that our vision and mission should change. We are a teaching hospital. We are not like the general hospitals. We are a referral hospital. It is not an obligation of the hospital to handle the bodies of the diseased.”

Asked to explain why Muslims could still process the bodies of their dead there, Dr Mustafa said this was a temporary arrangement that would end with the completion of Universiti Malaya’s Islamic Centre, which is under construction.

“The hospital does not make special arrangements for the Muslim bodies,” he said. “There is an Islamic charity society consisting of hospital staff which makes these arrangements for them. When the Islamic Centre is ready, these bodies will be processed there instead.”

Eventually, he added, the morgue would admit bodies for preparation only out of medical concerns, such as when death results from AIDS or tuberculosis.

“These bodies cannot be brought home for fear that they may infect the family members,” he said.

Referring to difficulties faced by poor families because the new ruling often means increased funeral expenses, he said they should seek help from the hospital’s welfare department.

“We have a welfare department in the hospital. These families can appeal for assistance there. We don’t want families to be under additional stress and we would want to assist wherever possible.”

Dr Mustafa dismissed a suggestion that the restriction of morgue services came with a change of leadership at the hospital. He said UMMC’s current director, Dr Ikram Shah Ismail, had held his post since 2006.

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