Mackay Base Hospital. Picture: Tony Martin
Mackay Base Hospital. Picture: Tony Martin

‘Dead people being transported more than 1000km’

MACKAY families grieving the loss of loved ones are being forced to wait to bury them due to a shortage of pathologists based in the city.

Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan aired the allegations during question time in Queensland Parliament today, where he asked Deputy Premier Steven Miles about his knowledge of the matter.

Mr Costigan said there was a shortage of pathologists in North Queensland and a lack of localised autopsy services in Mackay.

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"We have state-of-the-art facilities for autopsy services at our flagship regional hospital in Mackay, yet after two years, they are still to be used, even during a pandemic …" he said.

Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan. Picture: Supplied
Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan. Picture: Supplied

"Dr Miles even had the audacity to suggest that not one person locally had died from ailments excluding COVID-19 during this current pandemic.

"I think some of his own colleagues would have been bewildered by that reference and … would surely be aghast at these shocking revelations.

"They include reports of dead people being transported more than 1000km so that pathologists could carry out their work in Brisbane."

The Whitsunday MP said it was "outrageous" that there was a FIFO pathologist visiting regions like Mackay and Townsville every fortnight.

Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles at a press conference held at the Mackay Base Hospital. Picture: Tony Martin
Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles at a press conference held at the Mackay Base Hospital. Picture: Tony Martin

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Mr Costigan said he intended to ramp up pressure on the two major parties about the issue before the October 31 state election.

During parliament, Dr Miles said he intended to follow up the issues raised.

"The services that are offered at each individual hospital are determined by each hospital and health service. They have long-term plans about when services come online," he said.

"Sometimes they construct facilities to deliver services that are in their future plans.

"To answer the member's question about why autopsy services were not activated during the pandemic, I suspect it is probably because no-one died of COVID during the pandemic in the district of that HHS.

"However, with regard to the broader question of when those services will come online, I am happy to look into that and get back to him."

A Queensland Health spokeswoman said coronial autopsies were required to be performed by a specialist pathologist with autopsy training.  

"The last privately contracted specialist pathologist in Mackay with these qualifications retired over five years ago, resulting in cases being referred to either Townsville, Rockhampton or Brisbane," she said.

"All efforts are taken to ensure autopsies are conducted in a timely manner and the deceased returned to funeral directors as quickly as possible so that families can proceed with funerals without undue delay.  

"Death arising from a COVID infection is not a reportable death and would not require an autopsy." 

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