Director of Health takes part in deceased bodies handling work in public mortuaries together with frontline colleagues (with photos)


     In view of the increasing number of deceased bodies to be handled in public mortuaries under the Department of Health (DH), the Director of Health, Dr Ronald Lam, today (March 27) joined staff members from various DH service units to assist in relevant work at public mortuaries, aiming for speeding up the procedure for identification of body. 

     In response to the public’s expectation to claim the body of their deceased next-of-kin more quickly, the DH has strived to speed up the process of identification, claiming and autopsy of deceased bodies through redeploying internal resources to engage more civil servants, contract staff and retired staff involving doctors, pharmacists, scientific officers, hospital administrators, dental therapists, foremen and other clerical staff. Apart from visiting the Fu Shan Public Mortuary in Sha Tin and the Kowloon Public Mortuary today, Dr Lam inspected a new storage facility and assisted in writing medical reports for the deceased and registering information together with other colleagues. 

     Dr Lam said, “Due to the severe local COVID-19 epidemic situation, a larger number of deaths occurred earlier at the Accident and Emergency Departments within a short period of time, the number of deceased bodies to be handled by public mortuaries under the DH increased exponentially as a result. The forensic pathologists of DH’s Forensic Pathology Service, with the staunch support from the Police, have been making every effort to speed up the handling of deceased bodies at public mortuaries. As a core department in fighting the epidemic, personnel of other grades of the DH, while shouldering their own heavy workloads, contribute in helping at the public mortuaries in their spare time. The common goal of all our staff members is to address the next-of-kin’s concerns in a swift manner.”

     Apart from increasing manpower, the DH’s Forensic Pathology Service have arranged additional timeslots on Saturdays for body identification for all its public mortuaries, while the Kowloon Public Mortuary also provided such service on Sunday mornings in the past few weeks. Moreover, the Government has earlier installed new storage facility at government sites near the Fu Shan Public Mortuary to expand storage capacity. With the installation of 61 refrigerated containers, additional spaces for storing about 2 700 bodies were provided within a short period of time. The special arrangement for body identification at the storage facility has commenced since March 21 and will operate daily until further notice.

     In addition, the new Fu Shan Public Mortuary which is about to complete could store an extra 800 bodies. With the Architectural Services Department’s assistance, the handing over of the first phase of storage facilities was advanced to March 25. The Kowloon Public Mortuary, re-opened since the fifth wave of the epidemic, has installed 20 mobile units, providing an additional 240 storage spaces. 

     Dr Lam noted that increasing and operating the storage spaces of public mortuaries in such a large scale within a short period of time required the support of many government departments and organisations. Apart from the Police and the Architectural Services Department mentioned above, they also include the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, the Transport Department, the Water Supplies Department, the Auxiliary Medical Service, the China Light and Power Company, supplier of the refrigerated containers and also the logistics services contractors. Their participation and assistance are indispensable and they have fully co-operated and united to fight against the epidemic together. 

     Furthermore, from March 25, service hours of the Cremation Permit Office of the DH, a part of the Joint Office for death registration, were extended under a special arrangement, to facilitate members of the public to complete the registration of deaths from natural causes and funeral matters on the same day. The DH will closely cooperate with staff members of other departments in the Joint Office to ensure the smooth operation of registration of deaths from natural causes and funeral matters.

     Dr Lam said, “We understand that bereaved families must be deeply saddened having to go through the process of identifying and claiming deceased bodies for after-death arrangements following the loss of family members. In view of this, we have specially set up the “COVID-19 Grief Support Hotline” (Tel: 9814 1325). From 9am to 9pm between March 22 and April 30, Clinical Psychologists of the DH will offer short-term emotional support to the bereaved families of COVID-19 diseased patients who claimed the deceased bodies from public mortuaries under the DH. We hope that the bereaved families can receive appropriate support and solutions through the service.”

     Dr Lam said that the work of public mortuaries involved various aspects, the DH will constantly review and further enhance the workflow of handling deceased bodies in public mortuaries. The DH will also continue to monitor the utilisation situation and storage capacity of public mortuaries, as well as to discuss with relevant government departments to formulate appropriate response measures. Dr Lam expressed his gratitude to all DH colleagues for their professionalism and tireless efforts in serving members of public.