Gov’t to partner with private sector for public morgue
GOVERNMENT will be seeking private sector partnership to complete the construction of the island’s first ever public morgue.
The morgue, which will serve Kingston and St Andrew, St Thomas, and St Catherine has a $426-million price tag.
In the absence of a public morgue to serve the Corporate Area, bodies awaiting post-mortems are kept in storage facilities at Maddens and Spanish Town funeral homes, through special arrangements with the Government.
The former People’s National Party Government in June of 2007 announced plans to allocate $80 million for the construction of a state-of-the-art morgue, in the aftermath of the exposure of the gross inadequacies of the island’s pathological capabilities after the suspicious death of former Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer.
Making his first contribution to the annual State of the Nation Debate in the Senate on Friday, Security Minister Senator Dwight Nelson said although the plans for the building of the new morgue were ready, and the necessary approvals in place, construction was being delayed as negotiations for the financing of the project were not yet finalised. Security fencing for the new mortuary has already been installed around the property, he told the Senate.
“It is now clear that we can no longer rely exclusively on the public purse for the provision of all the facilities urgently needed to manage crime more effectively. In the case of the public morgue, which is one such facility, I intend to adopt a new approach.
“I will be asking the private sector to invest in the construction of the morgue, based on a commitment from the Government to lease and operate,” Nelson said.
Nelson said with the $426-million building cost, the Government had very few options.
“Such investments will also give a much-needed stimulus to the economy and provide jobs in the construction sector. The Ministry of National Security will explore this strategy in terms of future capital works,” he added.
In the meantime, the minister said given the “tremendous strides made with regards to the Legal Medicine Unit” the post-mortem waiting period has been reduced from between six to eight weeks to just between five to 10 days.
The Government, during the 2007/8 financial year, paid out a whopping $86,405,961 to private funeral homes to collect and store the bodies of persons who die violently or ‘under mysterious circumstances’.