The body of Gangalidda elder S Douglas was discovered in the hospital’s morgue after his coffin was interred.
North West Hospital and Health Service is under fire after Doomadgee Hospital, which it administers, misplaced the body of a respected Aboriginal elder, leading to an empty coffin being buried at the man’s funeral.
Queensland Health Minister Shannon Fentiman told The Guardian the mistake was “completely unacceptable” and promised Queensland Health would undertake an internal investigation “to ensure this never happens again”.
“I apologise for the hurt and distress this has caused the family. The entire Doomadgee community deserves better,” she said.
“It is vitally important to me that this community can trust their health system. Mistakes like this undermine that trust.”
Ms Fentiman said health authorities had taken steps to increase oversight and improve administrative processes at the hospital.
Gangalidda elder S Douglas’ funeral was in Doomadgee last week. The grave was exhumed on Tuesday after Douglas’s body was discovered in the morgue at Doomadgee Hospital.
“It’s not rocket science. There’s the body. There’s the coffin. Your job is to put the body in the coffin,” said Gangalidda leader Murrandoo Yanner, a spokesperson for the Douglas family.
Yanner told The Guardian there was “entrenched systemic racism” at Doomadgee Hospital.
“Why are we treated as second-class citizens and not given the same duty of care anyone in a mainstream hospital would receive,” he said.
“There is a systemic racism, decades old, that is just entrenched in Doomadgee and it needs to be rooted out by Queensland Health.”
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