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Number of unclaimed bodies in East Avenue Medical Center down to 8 – spokesperson

MANILA, Philippines – From the 20 cadavers reported to have "piled up" along a hallway of the East Avenue Medical Center (EAMC), the hospital now has 8 unclaimed bodies as of Sunday noon, April 12, a hospital offcial said.

“The 15-20 cadavers were from two days ago. We had 6 unclaimed yesterday. Nabawasan na siya kasi may mga naka claim na rin naman (It's decreasing because some already claimed the bodies), but there are new reported deaths now," 
Dr Dennis Ordoña, EAMC spokesperson, told Rappler on Sunday.

Ordoña added: "It’s true naiipon po sila. It’s true na umabot po sila sa hallway ng morgue but hindi sa hallway ng hospital. Pero since tumataas na talaga ang bilang ng ating unclaimed bodies, tumatawag talaga kami sa mga LGUs."

(It's true that the bodies are piling up. It's true that it reached the hallway of our morgue but not the hallway of the hospital. Since the number of unclaimed bodies in our facility is increasing, we've been coordinating with the LGUs.)

Ordoña told Rappler that EAMC's morgue facility can only store 5 cadavers per day. 

He also clarified that even before GMA News broadcaster Arnold Clavio’s social media post went viral, the unclaimed cadavers at the hospital has been one of their issues. 

“Issue na po talaga namin ito. Hindi po talaga nag sto-store ng patay dito sa ospital (It's has been our issue. We don't store dead bodies here at the hospital). Before the coronavirus pandemic, we transferred the dead bodies within 6 hours," Ordoña said. 

According to Ordoña, hospital authorities suspect that funeral parlors are not picking up the cadavers because they are worried about who would shoulder the fees.

But then, he said that the mass cremation of cadavers is the responsibility of the local government unit.

"Ang mga pasyente natin ay hindi naman well-off lahat so may possibility na baka hindi nila makuha ay [dahil] nag aalala sila na [sila] ang mag shoulder ng cost," Ordona said. 

(Our patients are not all well-off so there's a possibility that they are not claiming the bodies because they fear they might have to shoulder the cost of cremation.)

Ordoña said cremation cost in Metro Manila ranges from P65,000 to P100,000. 

Aside from cremation cost, the hospital also suspects that the relatives could not process the releasing papers because some of them are likely patients under investigation (PUIs) who are under quarantine. 

In Pasig City, Mayor Vico Sotto recently announced that the local government will shoulder the cremation of residents who succumb to the coronavirus disease. (READ: Pasig City gov't shoulders cremation of residents who die of coronavirus)

According to the guidelines of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) for handling PUIs and coronavirus-related deaths, local government units “shall designate and commission reputable funeral parlors and crematoriums to handle the remains of confirmed COVID-19 cases and PUIs.”

The guidelines also added that LGUs are mandated to shoulder logistical, fuel, and salary expenses involved in the process. 

Ordoña also confirmed that it was the East Avenue Medical Center that Clavio was referring to in his social media post. But he said that there was no directive from the Department of Health (DOH) to not report the number of deaths in the hospital. (READ: Hospital told not to report coronavirus deaths? DOH probing allegation)

More body bags

Though the DOH has allotted more body bags for the hospital, Ordona appealed for more to avoid shortages in the future.

“Sana po hindi natin ma-misinterpret na kaya tayo humihingi ng body bags ay dadami po ang mamamatay natin na pasyente. Ayaw lang po namin na dumating yung panahon na kapag dumami eh saka po tayo maghahanap,” he said. 

Ordoña also told Rappler that a private company has donated a temporary refigerator van for the dead bodies in the hospital. 

As of now, the hospital has 10 to 15 coronavirus positive patients and 40 to 50 PUIs.

EAMC has a capacity of 70 beds for patients diagnosed with coronavirus.

While the unclaimed bodies is still one of the problems of the hospitals, Ordoña also appealed for more personal protective equipment (PPEs) for their health workers. 

“We would like to focus on our living patients. We will still be needing ample supply of PPEs for our health workers here. Ito pa kasi ang ginagamit namin dito sa aming COVID-19 wards (We use these PPEs for our COVID-19 wards). We are consuming around 200-250 sets of PPEs a day. In case po na dadami ang pasyente (in case the number of patients rise), we will be needing more," he said.

On March 30, the DOH announced that it has acquired 1 million sets of PPEs amounting to P1.8 billion to be distributed to hospitals all over the country. The PPE set includes a head gear, goggles, N95 masks, gloves, aprons, and a laboratory gown.

As of Saturday, April 11, the Philippines registered 4,428 cases of coronavirus, with 247 deaths and 157 recoveries. –

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.