What is needed at St Luke's mortuary- Prof Cilia Vincenti - The Times - 2/8/2004

What is needed at St Luke's mortuary
Professor A. Cilia-Vincenti, chairman, Pathology Services, St Luke's Hospital, Guardamangia.

My previous letter on St Luke's Hospital mortuary (The Sunday Times, July 11) has been grossly misinterpreted as pride in the place and as defending the indefensible; one answer even bordered on the personally insolent.

The mortuary fell under my responsibility a little more than six months ago, and when I stated that it had little altered since the hospital was built, the implication was that others had been responsible for it for at least 70 years.

I now take responsibility for it with humility but without fear, and will reiterate that those responsible for it recently before me have tried to marginally improve with air-conditioning and cubicle-type curtaining. However, the mortuary needs at least three fundamental improvements to bring it up to acceptable standards.

It needs fridges for at least 20 bodies (on order), secondly a room where the bereaved can view their relative in privacy (already decided upon) and, thirdly, an end to relatives calling at the mortuary without an appointment (as in mortuaries in organised countries). Mortuary staff would need time to bring a body out of the fridges and prepare it for viewing in the reception room, and relatives would not be permitted to roam around in the rest of the mortuary.

We believe these fundamental mortuary improvements should be carried out in the very near future and irrespective of the status of the new hospital. For over a decade the top priorities of the hospital authorities for resource allocation have been cardiac services and the new hospital.

Whether or not our small country actually needed the largest new state hospital project in Europe is debatable, but to argue that St Luke's, at 70 years of age, had come to the end of its life as a hospital goes against the reality that some of the world's top hospitals are still very proud to be housed in buildings which are even over 200 years old, but are thoroughly up-to-date in equipment, furnishings and maintenance.

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