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County Council bosses say temporary mortuary not needed

Saturday, June 20th, 2020 11:00am

By Kerry Ashdown & Richard Hilton

A temporary mortuary set up at the Staffordshire County Showground to cope with Covid-19 deaths has not been used.

Staffordshire County Council approved a £550,000 spend on facilities for “management of excess deaths in Staffordshire in response to the Covid-19 outbreak” in early April, before giving the green light for a further £760,000 to be spent on building an additional unit at the Weston Road site.

But the second unit “for excess death storage” has not been built, a decision notice relating to the authority’s management of the site revealed this month, as the first unit was not put into operation.

Staffordshire County Council had planned to use some of its Covid-19 Government funding on the project and Stoke-on-Trent City Council was set to cover a quarter of the costs.

The notice said: “In addition, the (portable buildings) allocated to Staffordshire LRF (Local Resilience Forum) by central government were placed at the site to create a single temporary mortuary facility.

“Staffordshire County Council is the lead organisation and is responsible for contractual arrangements at the site. In order that the mortuary has appropriate oversight and governance, a comprehensive operating plan in has been put in place.”

Money was spent on preparing the interior of an existing building at the County Showground in case of a worst-case scenario and the first mortuary had a capacity for 550 people.

The facility prepared for mortuary use was not the existing refrigerated room next to the main Bingley Hall space however, the authority has confirmed.

Councillor Mark Deaville, cabinet member for commercial, said: “These have been difficult times and like all well-prepared local authorities we had to make sensible preparations for the worst-case scenario so that we could cope, sadly, with the consequences of the pandemic and treat its victims with the dignity that their families would wish for.”

A “reserve site” for mortuary facilities was also identified at Alrewas Hayes Grain Store, near Burton.

The existing Stoke-on-Trent public mortuary in Hartshill, has 43 refrigerated body storage spaces and five freezer spaces.

Royal Stoke University Hospital’s mortuary has capacity for 209 bodies, with 15 separate bariatric spaces, which are wider.

Staffordshire County Showground has been used by the county council for other pandemic-related operations however.

Over the past weeks and months it has acted as a hub for distributing vital supplies such as food parcels to vulnerable residents and personal protective equipment (PPE) to the frontline workers caring for others during the coronavirus pandemic.

The showground had been due to host this year’s Staffordshire County Show on May 27 and 28. But the agricultural extravaganza – which attracts tens of thousands of visitors each day and has a proud history dating back more than 200 years cancelled.

Other axed events include the National Dog Show and the Number One Events Antique Fair.

The 60-acre site is owned by Staffordshire and Birmingham Agricultural Society.

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