A Baltimore parking garage has been turned into a makeshift morgue due to the backlog of bodies needing autopsies.
The garage currently stores over 200 bodies due to staffing shortages and an increase in murders, drug overdoses, and deaths from COVID-19.
“The bodies are piling up and decaying right in front of everyone’s eyes,” Patrick Moran, President of AFSCME Council 3, which has members who are autopsy assistants and forensic investigators, told WMAR. “Bodies are decomposing and that’s not the way to treat those that have lost their lives and families who are looking for closure.”
The situation has become so dire that Maryland is appealing for federal disaster aid.
“It’s pretty vile, and it’s pretty unhealthy,” said Moran.
According to WUSA 9, the corpses are being stored in refrigerated truck trailers in a rented Baltimore loading dock and garage on Greene Street. The massive backlog is delaying funerals and prosecutions.
The state is reportedly renting the garage for $30,000 per month.
A woman whose daughter is kept at the parking garage told the local station that she was heartbroken when she found out where her body was.
“I’m outraged that they would be keeping bodies anywhere other than the coroner’s office,” she said. “I have no idea where she was kept. I didn’t know. I still don’t know, and I don’t want to.”
Democrat Del. Kirill Reznik told the station that the U.S. National Disaster Medical System is sending at least one worker to the state after they asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for help.
“Until a few weeks ago, there were bodies being piled up in the hallways,” Reznik said, citing complaints from unions representing employees at the Medical Examiner’s office. “It’s sad. Not only are we delaying potential criminal investigations, not only are we delaying the ability of families to have closure for their loved ones who have passed, there are circumstances where there are religious rights in many cases. And here we are delaying those people to properly bury their loved ones by days and weeks.”
Reznik said that it is hard to find people who want to examine the dead.
“People who go into the medical field want to heal the living, not work with the dead,” Reznik said. “And so finding those medical students and those doctors who want to engage in this specialty is is difficult.”
In an attempt to recruit pathologists to work in the medical examiner’s office, the state has increased salaries to over $370,000 per year.