East Avenue Medical Center (EAMC) spokesperson Dr. Dennis Ordoña has admitted that bodies have “piled up” in the hallway of the hospital’s morgue due to lack of freezers to store the dead bodies.
Ordona also cited the possibility that relatives cannot claim the remains of their loved ones due to the prevailing Luzon- wide lockdown.
Ordona, during an interview over CNN Philippines, said that the hospital’s morgue is good only for five bodies.
“The capacity of our morgue is for five patients. The highest number we’ve recorded so far are 20 cadavers which have not yet been picked up,” Ordona said.
“Honestly, there are bodies that have started to smell. We admit, that the stench reaches other areas of the hospital,” he said.
On a typical day, he said a cadaver only stays in the morgue for a short while. It would then be collected from the hospital after six hours for cremation or for temporary storage in a freezer.
Ordona said this process is mandatory, whether or not the deceased patient’s bills have been settled.
The hospital issued the confirmation after GMA7 news anchor Arnold Clavio posted on his Instagram account Saturday morning about what was allegedly going on inside a hospital in Metro Manila.
Citing an unnamed “frontliner” in the hospital as his source, Clavio said, “cadavers littered the hospital’s hallway.
“In one ward, there are 15 to 20 COVID-19 positive. Three other wards are full of persons under investigation (PUIs),” said the frontliner.
But Ordoña refuted claim by the frontliner source who said that the cadavers were in the hospital’s hallway. He noted they were in the “morgue hallway”, which was a separate facility from the main hospital.
He also pointed out that so far, none of the bodies have tested positive for COVID-19. He said they are still waiting for test results to know if they have the virus – hence they are considered as PUIs.
In a virtual presser Sunday afternoon, Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire also said they are yet to determine if the patients whose bodies have piled up in the hospital were COVID-19 positive.
She said they maybe positive of the virus or just PUIs. She said this matter would be clarified in the next few days.
In an earlier statement, EAMC director Dr. Alfonso Nuñez said they did not get any “directive, order or statement” from both the Quezon City local government and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to stop or hold the census of deaths related to COVID-19 in their hospital.
Nuñez assured they are continuously recording and reporting COVID-related death numbers to the Health Department’s Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit.
On Sunday morning, Duque inspected EAMC and met with its management amidst reports of cadavers piling-up in the hospital morgue.
The EAMC Management Team reported to Duque that on Saturday morning, it has met with various government agencies to address the concern.
Following this, Duque said arrangements with local government units and MMDA. He said other stakeholders have been made for the speedy transport and cremation/burial of cadavers, to contain any risk these may pose.
The Quezon City Council was tasked to manage any unclaimed bodies and shoulder the cost of cremation if funding from next of kin is unavailable.
EAMC disclosed that it has long been looking for a mobile freezer to accommodate the bodies to be claimed, be it a COVID-19 case or not.
Under Section 4.6 of the Interior Department’s guidelines for handling PUI and COVID-19 deaths, local governments “shall designate and commission reputable funeral parlors and crematoriums to handle the remains of confirmed COVID-19 cases and PUIs.”
Local Government Units (LGUs) are also mandated to shoulder logistical, fuel, and salary expenses involved in the process./Stacy Ang