THE funerals of two members of a Sangre Grande family who died in a car accident on Saturday are in abeyance, as autopsies are yet to be done, thanks to an ongoing squabble over late salary payments.
Newsday spoke with Aiesha Carrington, mother of ten-year-old Josiah and sister of Alisha Carrington. She said the bodies of her relatives have been passed back and forth between the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Centre (EWMSC), St James Medical Complex and the Forensic Sciences Centre (FSC).
Sources at FSC said mortuary attendants have been refusing to work since Monday, arguing that they are tired of the three-month contracts that have been renewed for the past two years. The contract agreement meant that the workers were usually paid two weeks into the new month for the previous month.
This, along with a new pathologist Dr Katherine Morris who was hired less than a month ago, makes the attendants' workload increasingly difficult, sources said. Morris is said to be still “learning the ropes” at FSC.
Newsday was told the two autopsies were scheduled to be done at FSC, but staff there have been refusing to accept the bodies because of the alleged "strike."
Newsday contacted Michelle Lassire, deputy director at FSC and the person in charge of the forensic pathology department, and was told to contact the Ministry of National Security.
The National Security Ministry, in a WhatsApp response, said there was no strike at FSC, but there are “some issues” that are “being worked on and should be rectified soon.”
Carrington said she was told to return to the FSC on Thursday for the autopsy on her son, but is still not certain when or where the autopsy will be done on her sister.
“My sister could be decomposing all now – and I don’t want any closed-casket funeral.
"The FSC is real trouble. As you reach they telling you they are on strike because they not getting paid. This is messed up.
"My mother under stress. One of my sisters had to be taken to the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital. It hard, it is stressing. This morning (yesterday) my sister like she could not handle the stress and when they said they could not handle the bodies, I feel that added to the stress, and she get on real bad. We had to call police and ambulance, so they admitted her to the hospital.”
Carrington added that the family hoped to bury nephew and aunt together, but with the uncertainty about their autopsies, she was not sure what would happen.
While Carrington has been discharged from the EWMSC after two days at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), one of the two children injured in the crash is still warded there.
The family left their El Reposo Road, Sangre Grande home on Saturday morning for the Manzanilla beach. In the grey Nissan Wingroad were the Carringtons and Alisha's two stepchildren, Saleem Abdul-Haqq, four, and Nayim Persad, five.
Nayim was discharged from hospital, Carrington said, but is paralysed. Saleem has not been told his “cousin” died and is asking to play with him when he is discharged. He is also asking relatives when he will see his stepmother.
This is not the first time that issues at the FSC have further affected the lives of grieving relatives. In 2016 pathologist Dr Valery Alexandrov walked off the job, saying he needed a break after working for close to two months without relief.
At the end of his contract Alexandrov, along with Dr Hughvon Des Vignes did autopsies until Dr Somu Sekhar was hired in July. Sekhar and Morris are the only pathologists at the centre, working on a one-week-on, one-week-off basis. Sekhar is not expected to renew his year-long contract, which ends in July 2020.