Faro Hospital (Photo: Sara Alves)

Health regulator detects “other cases of body mix-ups” at Algarve hospitals

Wrong body was cremated in November

Portugal’s Health Regulatory Entity (ERS) has detected new cases of bodies being wrongly identified at the Algarve’s public hospitals after two bodies were misidentified at Faro Hospital’s morgue in November 2022, which led to the wrong body being cremated.

Says ERS in a statement cited by Lusa news agency, the regulator issued an instruction to to Algarve University Hospital Centre (CHUA) to “permanently and effectively follow the procedures for post-mortem identification of patients,” which it found “were not correctly followed by the professionals,” referring to cases of identity swaps and the delivery of bodies to families or funeral agencies.

The procedures for identifying and delivering corpses at CHUA were analszed by the ERS following reports in November 2022 of an error in the identification of two corpses in the morgue of Faro hospital and the subsequent delivery and cremation of one of the bodies “against the wishes of the respective family,” the regulator says.

While “CHUA, in addition to regretting what happened, reported that it had ordered an inquiry,”, the ERS highlights that it also “became aware of other corpse swaps occurring at CHUA,” which were also examined.

“Following the investigative actions undertaken and a careful and thorough analysis of the elements presented in the records, it was determined that, despite CHUA having implemented various procedures/norms over the years regarding the identification of corpses and their subsequent delivery to families and/or funeral agencies, they were not correctly followed by the professionals in the various situations reported,” says ERS.

The health regulator states that “it is urgent to ensure full awareness and assumption of the obligations in question, as well as the ongoing adequacy of the behaviour of the service provider,” and that this work will only be effective “if the existing procedures are actually followed and respected by the professionals in its service, universally, in all services” of the hospital unit.

After careful consideration, CHUA was instructed by the ERS to “permanently and effectively comply with the post-mortem procedures in force, especially concerning the confirmation of the identification of corpses and their subsequent delivery to their respective families and/or funeral agencies.”

The health regulator also advises CHUA to “ensure the proper training of all employees involved in the implementation of the procedures (…) both at the time of their integration and through periodic refresher training.”

CHUA must “ensure, continuously, that the procedures” applied “are known to its professionals and effectively followed by them” to guarantee “standards of care quality, recommendations, and best practices.”

The ERS also demands that CHUA provide “documentary evidence of the effective implementation and execution of the other proposed and identified measures/actions” and conduct “internal audits to assess the execution of the procedures.”

Readers may recall that CHUA’s administration offered to resign after the body mix-up was made public; however, this idea was never brought up or mentioned again once the public outrage over the case died down.

By Michael Bruxo

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