NT Government orders COVID-19 ‘portable mortuaries’ to be rolled out

by | Dec 22, 2021 | COVID-19, News | 0 comments

The Gunner Government has ordered 10 refrigerated shipping containers it intends to use as COVID-19 morgues to be rolled out in Darwin, Alice Springs and Nhulunbuy, the NT Independent can reveal.

The contracts to acquire the “portable mortuaries” were awarded last week through a select tender process, meaning it did not go to public tender, and comes as the government announced a further three cases of COVID-19 linked to the Katherine cluster on Wednesday that started last month and now stands at 125.

The NT has only reported one death to date related to COVID-19.

Health Minister Natasha Fyles and Chief Minister Michael Gunner refused to answer the NT Independent’s questions, including why the government would be purchasing the containers now.

Opposition CLP health spokesman Bill Yan said the government was “cutting corners at every turn and using COVID as a cover not to follow proper process” by awarding the contracts through select tenders.

“Labor has known about the possibility for additional mortuary requirements since February 2020,” he said.

“If the Gunner Government had acted back then, the proper procurement process could have been followed which would ensure Territorians get best value for money.

“This incompetent government is wasting taxpayer dollars using select tender processes and using COVID as an excuse to do so.

“Why hasn’t permanent infrastructure been built to deal with possible COVID deaths? This is another example of the Gunner Government failing to plan and failing to deliver.”

Active COVID cases have been reported in Tennant Creek and Ali Curung, forcing a lockdown of both communities, which were extended for a further 24 hours on Wednesday.

It’s unclear if any of the portable morgues will be moved to remote communities, other than Nhulunbuy.

The number of cases from remote communities has been growing, with the government calling for more testing while remote clinics are closing over Christmas.

Deputy Chief Minister Nicole Manison said on Wednesday that it “is only a matter of time” before COVID-19 is detected in Darwin again.

The only COVID-related death reported in the NT was recorded on December 3, when a 78-year-old woman from Binjari died at the Royal Darwin Hospital after spending weeks on oxygen. It was unclear what pre-existing conditions the unvaccinated woman had.

Sea Swift and Semcorp NT providing refrigerated containers for COVID-19 morgues

The two tenders for five refrigerated shipping containers were put through an “alternative procurement” method by the Department of Health, according to tender documents, and awarded last week to Sea Swift and a company called Semcorp NT.

The reason the government used a select tender process was listed on tender documents as necessary for the “protection of public morals, order or safety”.

The description was listed as a “fit-out of five refrigerated shipping containers as portable mortuaries, to enhance the COVID-19 capability”.

Both contracts somehow came in at $72,000 each.


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