Editor's Comment

Keep coffins away

FOR a long time, the business of selling coffins at the University Teaching Hospitals (UTH) mortuary seemed to be an innovation as it helped people, mostly youths, earn an income during hard times.
The selling of coffins at the UTH mortuary was for a long time thought to be a clever idea to have the product right where it was needed.
Death was seemingly demystified as service was brought closer to the people. It has been a service just like pharmacies nearby all in one place.
Apart from coffins, we have several private laboratories and pharmacies outside UTH. It is a business initiative on the part of the people and companies.
The coffin vendors provided a one-stop shop for most mourners, especially those who live very far from UTH.
The mortuary at UTH has capacity to keep 358 bodies. The proximity of coffin vendors who also offer other services such as preparations of bodies and transportations has been lessening the burden of mourners.
When a relative dies, they don’t have to go far in search of a casket because it is right at the doorsteps of the mortuary.
However, all these years, it had never crossed anybody’s mind that there was a downside to that business conducted within the vicinity of the mortuary, which is a stone’s throw from the wards where patients are kept.
So much as the coffin vendors have been offering a service to the mourners, little has it dawned to most people that there is a dis-service to the patients, caregivers and relatives who visit the patients in UTH.
Perhaps, patients are the most negatively affected because they get depressed, not just at the sight of coffins but grieving mourners who gather at UTH sometimes as early as 06:00 hours.
Physiologically, if one sees coffins as he/she enters the hospital, you always think of death, and if you hear your patient’s health has deteriorated upon arrival in the ward, you will have negative feelings. That can eventually affect the patients if they see relations have lost hope.
Patients, caregivers and visitors are exposed to wailing and singing mourners almost the whole day and this could adversely affect their recovery.
Some patients could begin to think more about their death rather than about their recovery. This is very depressing.
Although death is a reality, what was deemed as an appropriate site for coffin business next to the mortuary entrance will now have to close shop and shift elsewhere.
This is because the Lusaka City Council thinks the coffin sellers have overstayed their welcome at the mortuary and should consider relocating in the next 90 days.
The local authority has since given the coffin sellers up to March this year to find an alternative place to conduct their business, failure to which they will be moved near graveyards.
Lusaka Mayor Miles Sampa said yesterday that he has given the sellers three months in which to relocate their businesses because health facilities are not an appropriate place for that market.
Mr Sampa said the decision follows complaints by some Lusaka residents, some of whom have patients admitted to the health institutions.
The residents urged Lusaka City Council to consider finding an alternative place for coffin sellers to trade from.
Residents believe that coffins are not supposed to be sold at the hospital or clinics because those facilities are supposed to give hope to the people and not depress them into succumbing to death.
While death is inevitable, it should not be made obvious that people will die when they go to UTH for services.
Patients deserve peace of mind.

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