By Tabora Bojang
The Director of Health Services at the Ministry of Health, Dr Mustapha Bittaye has told The Standard that measures are ongoing to ensure the safe burial of over 40 dead bodies that are kept at the country’s main referral, Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital in Banjul.
The presence of the bodies, some of them since over 5 years ago, has caused concern among many people.
But according to Dr. Bittaye, a site for the burial of these unclaimed corpses has already been identified and the digging of the graves already started.
A couple of weeks ago, one Kine Jagne Sallah in a live video made a startling revelation of the corpses being kept in refrigerated containers at the hospital for well over five years.
The lady, who claimed to be a financer to the EFSTH mortuary, said she came to this realisation following a request she made to be taken to the mortuary.
But speaking on the matter on Wednesday, Dr. Bittaye said: “I have been given updates that the process was halted because of the environment in those days. You don’t just go around burying a lot of bodies at certain critical periods in the country like the elections. So, you have to wait for the right time and when everybody is sensitised then you can do it. We have already dug the places where they are supposed to be buried. All the paperwork and documentation has been done and our office [Ministry of Health] has given all the approvals.”
According to him, the process is multifaceted and involves coordination among the police, EFSTH and Gambia Red Cross Society.
He said the process was prolonged because most of the corpses are unclaimed which requires thorough consultations and verifications.
“It is not easy to just dump bodies like that. You have to take a lot of precautions and ensure that every mechanism is exhausted. You can’t bury somebody’s corpse like that without due consideration,” the director added. Dr Bittaye referred The Standard to the EFSTH spokesperson Kebba Sanneh for more details. Mr Sanneh was not available but he told West Coast Radio on Wednesday that the bodies were brought to the hospital for keeping and it is not the responsibility of the hospital to bury them.