PORT VILA does not have a working morgue facility in the country, in what the medical fraternity is calling an international disgrace.

Doctors told The Independent that the capital’s only morgue, situated at the Central Hospital in Port Vila, can no longer keep bodies at the required temperature consistently, which is the sole purpose for such an important facility.

“We have put thermometers in there in recent days and weeks and the temperatures have varied between 12 and 24 degrees Celsius,’’ said one doctor, who did not want to be named.

“Refrigeration experts have told us that the equipment, which is believed to be 12 to 15 years old, is simply beyond repair and the only solution is to totally replace it. It is just unbelievable to think that we do not have a working morgue in the entire country.’’

Another doctor said a refrigeration engineer told him that you can re-gas the worn and broken equipment but it will only last for hours or a day or two ‘if you are lucky’.

“He said there was a major hole in the compressor and the gas quickly escaped and the temperature climbed to levels completely unacceptable for a morgue,” said another unnamed doctor.

“It needs to be consistently around minus 10 degrees to keep a body frozen and anything that is 20 or more degrees higher is just going to see decomposition of the body occur rapidly in this climate.

“So if a person flies in from say Australia or New Zealand to view their loved one, we have to be very firm in refusing that request because the body is simply no longer in a state to be viewed. In fact it is no longer recognisable as their loved one at all.

“I am not going to describe the state of these bodies, but it is something that should never be allowed to happen in this day and age.’’

Doctors said if there are suspicious circumstances relating to a death and a forensic specialist is required to fly in from Fiji or elsewhere, keeping the body in a fit state for examination is no longer possible.

“The situation is just completely embarrassing and unacceptable at every level, but the bosses in the Department of Health do not seem interested in the issue at all,’’ said one senior hospital medico.

“We have been told that VT3 million was set aside after Cyclone Pam to repair the morgue. Whether that is true or the money still exists or has been used elsewhere is anybody’s guess.

“We have used refrigerated containers in emergencies and we know of one that has been completely refurbished to make it in to a completely suitable 12-bed morgue.

“It would cost about VT 7.5 million and all that would be needed would be to set it up on a series of concrete blocks, plug it in and you would have a perfectly good standard morgue that would last for the next decade or more.’’ READ MORE