Rwizi Region Police detectives have commenced investigations into a case involving two men apprehended at Mbarara Referral Hospital on accusations of stealing corpses from the hospital.
The accused, including Robert Mucunguzi, an employee at Urban Funeral Services, and Andrew Ainomugisha of Miles Funeral Services, were arrested at Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital yesterday morning. Currently held at Mbarara Central Police, it has been established that they were nabbed by the hospital security team while coercing clients who lost their loved ones to take them to their funeral homes.
Halson Kagure, the Head of Communication and Public Relations at Mbarara Referral Hospital, stated that they have received reports of bodies leaving the ward without passing through the mortuary, which is outside normal procedures. According to Kagure, the duo was apprehended by the hospital security team, recently tasked by the Hospital Director, Dr. Celestine Barigye, to investigate the matter to its logical conclusion.
Dr. Celestine Barigye, who also serves as the Director of Health Services in the region, expressed dissatisfaction during a recent talk show regarding individuals charged upon losing their dear ones. Barigye reportedly threatened to fire employees in the Pathology Department should the vice continue. In their defense, employees blamed private funeral homes for deploying agents to discourage mortuary services, even though MRRH is one of the few hospitals with a functional mortuary.
Upon the arrest of the accused persons, Dr. Barigye directed the Hospital Public Relations Officer (PRO) Halson Kagure and Senior Hospital Administrator (SHA) Francis Ojom to handle the matter. Mr. Ojom Francis accused the owners of funeral homes of tarnishing the hospital’s name by falsely claiming that mortuary services are paid for. According to Ojom, mortuary services are free of charge, and suspects admitted to being used to force relatives to abandon the mortuary and go to funeral homes, with their paymasters giving them a commission worth 200,000 Shs per body.
Halson Kagure clarified that these individuals deceive the public by falsely stating that mortuary services are charged 500,000 Shs. He emphasized that every patient who dies within the facility should be recorded. Kagure explained that when a person dies on the ward, a medical certificate of cause of death is issued by medical personnel, and the body is prepared by the last office in a dignified manner before being sent to the mortuary.
In the mortuary, Dr. Raymond Atwine, Head of the Pathology Department at Mbarara, stated that the body is treated, recorded, and a postmortem is performed if requested by the relative or the state. Kagure added that when all processes in the mortuary are completed, a gate pass is processed and issued to the deceased’s relatives, indicating permission for transfer.
Additionally, a medical certificate of cause of death is supposed to be taken to the Medical Records Department (MRD), where a Medical Records Officer issues a short death notification, a prerequisite to obtaining a death certificate from NIRA. It should be noted that some people who die of infectious diseases need special treatment in a separate mortuary. These agents not only violate established guidelines for handling the deceased but also may risk the lives of surrounding people.
The suspects have been taken to the police, and according to Samson Kasasira, the Rwizi Region Police Spokesman, a general inquiry file has been opened. Kasasira warned owners of funeral homes about bending the correct procedures for accessing bodies from the hospital, adding that detectives will extract vital information to help apprehend anyone involved in this misconduct.