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Ireland: Mortuaries overflow, funerals delayed amid ‘unexplained’ rise in deaths

'Other Cork hospitals held onto their bodies overnight'

Posted by

March 16, 2023


04:33 AM

Ireland: Mortuaries overflow, funerals delayed amid ‘unexplained’ rise in deaths

Mortuaries in Ireland are scrambling to find extra body storage as an unexplained spike in excess deaths packs morgues to the brim, throwing funeral arrangements into disarray.

A recent analysis of obituaries by the Irish Examiner found there were 9,718 deaths announced between December 1, 2022 and January 25, 2023 — a significant jump from 8,075 deaths during the same period a year before. It was also an alarming increase from the 8,135 deaths announced in January 2021, at the height of the pandemic.

In the city of Cork, where deaths jumped over 16% from last year, mortuaries have been so full that hospitals have had to keep their dead bodies overnight.

“Between the 19th of December and the 3rd of January, over 100 deaths were reported to my office,” Cork City Coroner Philip Comyn. “The mortuary [at Cork University Hospital] had so many bodies it couldn’t take any more and the other Cork hospitals held onto their bodies overnight.”

Mayo City Coroner Patrick O’Connor also said he saw “an extraordinary number of deaths” between December 15 and January 15.

“In one five-day period, there were 17 postmortems carried out in Mayo University Hospital, which would be very unusual,” he said. “Usually, there would be around one a day perhaps. And these are only post-mortems where there is a sudden death or exceptional circumstances. The reality is that the numbers [of deaths] are much higher.

“It is putting greater strain on frontline services — the doctors, the morticians, the pathologists, and indeed the coroners.”

While the deaths are being described as “unexplained” that has not stopped some “experts” from taking a stab at a possible explanation.

UCC School of Epidemiology and Public Health’s Iven Perry says the excess deaths might be due to the flu, other respiratory illnesses, or heart disease from COVID.

“It could also be that people are slightly more vulnerable post-Covid because there is a post-Covid elevated risk of heart disease for example, so that could be contributing to it as well,” he said.

But the problem is not limited to Ireland; the crisis has spread across the United Kingdom, where makeshift morgues are now being used to house extra bodies. These temporary mortuaries typically consist of a refrigeration unit and a shipping container, according to The Sun, and can house about 35 bodies.

Between December and January, mortality rates in the UK jumped 20% and more than 1,600 excess deaths were recorded.

The Royal College of England blames these excess deaths on long waiting times.

“If you can’t get an ambulance to someone who’s having a heart attack or a stroke, then some of those patients may die as a result,” the college said in a statement.

“Our own analysis indicates that an estimated 300 to 500 patients are dying per week across the UK associated with long waiting times in emergency departments,” added Royal College of England President Adrian Boyle.

The overflowing morgues come on the heels of a pandemic when media outlets repeatedly claimed hospitals were being overloaded by the unvaccinated — claims that turned out in many cases to be untrue.

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