Expansion could alleviate morgue overcrowding

The Munson Medical Center Morgue is looking to expand due to overcrowding. As the population in northern Michigan grows, the need to accommodate more bodies, both claimed and unclaimed, rises.

Munson Medical Center is looking to expand its morgue due to overcrowding.

The Grand Traverse County Health Department says it's a preventative move, as population increases inevitably lead to more deaths.

â??Maybe the morgue isn't quite as big as it would need to be if you had built it that size to begin with,â?? said Wendy Trute, a health officer with the health department.

According to Trute, more bodies are going unclaimed in the morgue than in years passed. It used to be that only a few bodies would go unclaimed each year, but now it's a couple a month.

â??There are times it gets a little tight in there,â?? said Dr. John Keep, Medical Director of Munson Laboratories. â??In general, our volume is something we can handle. It's just on a rare occasion it gets to be a backlog.â??

It can take anywhere from three days to five weeks to notify next of kin, according to the health department.

â??You can't proceed with cremation or burial until you actually have proof they're truly not being claimed,â?? explained Trute.

In the past, local funeral homes have pitched in, donating their services.

â??As those numbers have gone from a handful a year to maybe averaging a couple a month, that's kind of a lot to ask,â?? said Trute.

The economy is said to be a factor in many situations surrounding unclaimed bodies.

â??I think sometimes families are having to walk away,â?? Trute said. â??They may not want to walk away, but they don't feel like they have a choice.â??

The morgue at Munson Medical Center services the entire region.

â??We here at Munson have tried to be a good neighbor to the county, tried to help them with their storage needs. There's no sense in having the county build their own morgue when we have a functional morgue here,â?? said Keep.

Munson can only house six bodies at a time. Morgue expansion has been on the to-do list for the past six months. Within the next three or four months, Keep expects to see extra space.

â??The new walk-in refrigerator will allow us to almost double that,â?? said Keep.

The proposed upgrades for the morgue would help them accommodate more bodies, and it would also allow for safer maneuverability within the space.