A Los Angeles County hospital is facing criticism for how it treated the bodies of deceased patients who died of COVID-19.
Memorial Hospital of Gardena is accused of improperly caring for the corpses of deceased patients, as workers could be seen shuffling dead bodies in a mobile freezer outside the hospital, according to video footage released of the incident.
The morgue inside the hospital can only hold a maximum of six corpses, which has not been sufficient during the pandemic, a hospital spokesperson said.
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One person who witnessed the incident said the corpses remained outside in the rain, according to a report.
"Security had tears in their eyes. They're crying. Some of the security had to leave because they got fluid on their clothes when they did move the bodies," the witness said.
The hospital categorically denied charges that the bodies were left outside in the rain or improperly treated. The mobile freezer was maintained in a 34 degree Fahrenheit environment, according to the hospital.
"Because of the overcrowding situation, hospital administrators took action yesterday to organize the outdoor cooling unit in a more orderly fashion," the hospital said in a statement. "Hospital protocol calls upon security guards to assist in the process when mortuaries come to pick up bodies, primarily helping to lift and move the bodies."
However, the person who claims to have witnessed the incident said there is proof that the mobile freezers were maintained improperly and that body fluid was visible on the sheets and ground.
"Impossible. Those bodies were defrosted. They were decomposing," the person said.
It is illegal to position the corpses the way they were presented in the released images, according to Vidal Herrera, the owner of an independent autopsy company.
"And I could see a lot of bodily fluids, and right there the pathogens — that can expose security guards and whomever walks in there," Herrera said. "A body should never be there for more than two weeks."
Hospital officials admitted the bodies of deceased patients were kept in mobile freezers for months, and 11 of the 19 corpses were not collected by family members nor Los Angeles County.
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"Memorial Hospital of Gardena continues working to alleviate a situation of overcrowding in its morgue facilities. As of this morning, the hospital had 19 bodies on site, in the hospital's small inside morgue and in a temporary cooling unit outside," the hospital said in a statement. "Local mortuaries are filling up at this time, which makes a transfer more challenging. Meanwhile, hospital administrators are working to get a larger temporary cooling unit on site to alleviate the overcrowding."