Health trust makes privacy plea as temporary mortuaries set up for patients who die from coronavirus at Sunderland and South Shields hospitals
A health trust has asked people to “respect the privacy and dignity of those who have lost their lives due to COVID-19 and their families” as short-term ‘rest areas’ are set up at Sunderland and South Tyneside hospitals for patients who have died from coronavirus.
The spaces are being set up by Ministry of Defence staff at various hospital across the region, including Sunderland Royal and South Tyneside District Hospital, with work already under way.
As the work was confirmed, South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust described the move as a “precautionary measure” but also stressed that “we need to be prepared for the potential of more deaths across our local communities.”
The completed areas “will provide a safe and dignified environment, whilst funeral arrangements are made".
Now the trust has asked people to “respect the privacy and dignity of those who have lost their lives due to COVID-19 and their families” and not to photograph the areas.
In a Facebook post the trust said: “Please do not to take any pictures of the temporary ‘rest’ areas currently being installed on our hospital sites by the Ministry of Defence.
“This is a very difficult situation for us all and we welcome your support and understanding on this very sensitive matter at an unprecedented time.
“Please be respectful and do not take pictures or videos #COVIDKindness”
Confirming the arrival of the units earlier in the week, a joint statement by Sunderland City Council and South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, read: "As part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, plans across all partner agencies are now very well advanced and contingency arrangements are being put in place as we prepare for a peak in cases.
"Sadly, this also means we need to be prepared for the potential of more deaths across our local communities.
“To support with this and, as a precautionary measure, temporary facilities will be installed this week in a number of locations across the region, including Sunderland Royal Hospital and South Tyneside District Hospital.
"These temporary facilities will provide short-term 'rest' areas for those who have sadly died as a result of COVID-19.
“They will not be a place for families to visit loved ones, but will provide a safe and dignified environment, whilst funeral arrangements are made.
"Upholding the dignity of those who have died while being respectful towards their families at this difficult time is at the heart of our plans.
“We also recognise this is a very difficult time for all those NHS staff working in areas where these temporary facilities will be located.
"Over the coming days Ministry Of Defence personnel will be transporting and installing the temporary facilities which will be screened from the public.
"Locations have been chosen based on practicality and space available and do not reflect the number of anticipated deaths in each area.”
A letter sent to residents living close to Sunderland Royal has explained why they may see work going out at the sites.
It explains the areas will mean that those who die are still kept close to home and their families.
The letter, signed by Sunderland’s chief coroner Derek Winter, the council’s chief executive Patrick Melia and the chief executive of the hospital trust Ken Bremner, adds: “We appreciate your property overlooks this part of the hospital grounds and we are working with experts from the Ministry of Defence to ensure that there is both privacy and dignity for the families with loved ones who have died, but also for yourselves as residents who live next door to the hospital site.
“Please be assured that the structure will be fully covered and as discreet as possible.
“You will appreciate this is a very difficult situation for all of us and we welcome your support and understanding on this very sensitive matter at an unprecedented time.”