Hospital officials had to step in to calm down understandably freaked-out Hongkongers yesterday after social media flew into a tizzy over a photo of a hospital notice warning that, due to overcrowding, the hospital morgue might have to start cramming multiple bodies into the same compartment.
A photo of the notice was first posted to a Facebook group for North District residents by member Alan Law, who noted in the caption that “even in death you still have to wait in line.”
The note — which on.cc reports was posted inside the Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital in Tai Po — reads that in order to avoid overcrowding, families need to collect the dead bodies of their loved ones as soon as possible. But if the note’s intent was get people’s attention, it may have worked a little too well, with some netizens launching into full-on outrage mode.
“Our relatives deserve the best to the end and this is just disappointing! Hopefully they can find a better plan to deal with this,” one commenter said.
That outrage, however, may have been a bit premature. Responding to media inquiries about the note, the Hospital Authority (HA) told on.cc in a statement that the notice in question had always been at the hospital, and that they regularly appeal to families to collect the remains of their loved ones in order to avoid overcrowding at the mortuary.
The HA said that most of the morgues at the city’s public hospitals are only about 70 percent full, and reassured people that they hadn’t yet had to resort to shoving anyone’s dearly departed grandpa into the same drawer as some other dude.
The Department of Health — which runs three public morgues in Kwai Chung, Victoria, and Fu Shan — told on.cc that at present, their facilities are a combined 90 percent full. They also have a fourth mortuary in Kowloon that will be used if the three others reach full capacity.
Still, staff at the Tai Po hospital’s morgue also told Apple Daily that winter and Lunar New Year were “peak season” because the number of elderly people who die from the cold and flu tends to increase.
What’s more, matters are made worse by the belief that the New Year is an inauspicious time for funerals.
Ng Yiu-tong, the chairman of the Funeral Business Association told the newspaper that Lunar New Year is not the appropriate time to carry out funeral arrangements, and that people generally wait until the 15th day of the new year to start making arrangements and collect their loved ones’ bodies.