13 July 2024

The Thammasat University Hospital is renting two refrigerated shipping containers, to be used to chill the corpses of COVID-19 victims, because existing mortuaries do not have the capacity to handle the increasing number of people dying from the disease and other causes.

A post on the hospital’s Facebook page indicated that it was reluctant to tell the public about the overcrowded mortuaries, but it has to tell the truth about the problem, now and in the foreseeable future, so all sectors of society can brace for a worst-case scenario in Thailand’s healthcare system.

The post said that the hospital’s forensic science unit has the responsibility for Pathum Thani province and its vicinities and is, therefore, duty-bound to examine victims who die at home or in road accidents in its area of responsibility, to determine the cause of death, adding that the number of people dying, including from COVID-19, is steadily increasing and will soon overwhelm the hospital’s current mortuary facilities.

Associate Professor Dr. Paruhat Tor-udom, director of the hospital, told Thai PBS that the mortuary normally accommodates 2-3 cadavers of those who die at the hospital, 2-3 of those who die in road accidents and others from several central provinces.

He disclosed that the hospital is treating 70-100 COVID in-patients on daily basis and, of these, 2 or 3 pass away every day.

He said that, normally, relatives of the dead are required to collect the bodies within 24 hours of death but, since the COVID-19 outbreak, many may be in quarantine and unable to arrange for collection of their deceased family member for several days, resulting in a the hospital having to store them for 3 to 5 days.

Dr. Paruhat said the two refrigerated shipping containers each have a capacity to store 15 cadavers and are expected to be delivered in the next few days.

Currently, 79 COVID-19 patients are being treated at the hospital, including 34 severe cases in ICU, while 307 others are undergoing treatment at its field hospital.

Expressing grave concern over the worsening pandemic situation, Dr. Paruhat said he expects more deaths and for new infections to soar to more than 10,000 cases a day, if the pandemic is not effectively contained.

Several temples in Bangkok have also complained that their crematories are cracking because of the heat caused by the continuous cremation of an increasing number of victims of COVID-19.

The broken crematory, at Wat Khae Nok Temple in Nonthaburi, is being repaired and will resume operation on Sunday July 18th.

The repairs follow House Speaker Chuan Leekpai’s petition to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha for a budget to fix and maintain the crematory, as many more COVID-19 victims are awaiting cremation, said Mr. Chuan’s secretary Somboon Uthaiwiankul.

Mr. Somboon is also calling on the government to accelerate vaccination of undertakers, Buddhist monks and rescue foundation staff who handle the bodies of COVID-19 victims.