Mbarara, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | The police in Mbarara are currently conducting an investigation into two individuals accused of stealing dead bodies from Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital.
The suspects, identified as Robert Mucunguzi, an employee at Urban Funeral Services, and Andrew Ainomugisha of Miles Funeral Services, were apprehended at Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital.
Halson Kagure, the Public Relations Officer for Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital, disclosed that the hospital’s security team caught the duo moving from ward to ward, allegedly searching for clients who had recently lost their loved ones. It appears that the suspects had developed a pattern of approaching caretakers at various hospitals to obtain bodies of deceased relatives without following the prescribed hospital procedures.
Typically, bodies of patients who pass away under hospital care are required to go through the mortuary for documentation after completing all necessary processes in the ward where the death occurred. The investigation revealed that Mucunguzi and Ainomugisha were deployed by the owners of funeral homes to target bodies before they reached the hospital mortuary.
During interrogation, the suspects admitted to receiving a commission of Shs 200,000 for persuading relatives to take bodies directly from the ward to the funeral home. Dr. Raymond Atwine, the head of the Pathology Department at Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital, attributed this practice to funeral homes in Mbarara City, alleging collaboration with special-hire drivers to execute their mission.
Dr. Atwine explained the standard procedure: when a patient dies in the hospital ward, a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD) is issued by a licensed doctor. This document accompanies the body to the mortuary for proper identification and processing of a death certificate by the National Information and Records Authority (NIRA).
Failure to follow these procedures complicates the issuance of the death certificate, requiring retrieval of the deceased patient’s medical records and retrospective issuance of the MCCD. Dr. Atwine warned that snatching bodies without proper procedures could expose the public to infectious diseases the deceased might have had.
The two suspects are currently assisting the police with investigations at Mbarara Central Police, according to Samson Kasasira, the Rwizi Region Police Spokesperson. Kasasira condemned the funeral homes’ actions and expressed optimism that the ongoing crackdown would curb such illicit activities.
Dr. Celestine Barigye, the Hospital Director of Mbarara Referral Hospital and Regional Director of Health Services in Western Uganda, recently addressed allegations of charging for mortuary services. While confirming that these services are free of charge, he acknowledged efforts to counteract smear campaigns against the hospital.