Inside Rotorua's morgue

By Anita Moran,

Jason Sayers is all about helping people.

The Rotorua man has worked in the Rotorua Hospital morgue for the past 10 years and dedicates his time to getting answers and helping the families of those who have died.

Sixteen years ago, Mr Sayers was working in a sawmill but when an opportunity came up for him to volunteer at a funeral home, he took it.

Volunteering turned into a full-time job and led to an embalming qualification but after six years, a job in the Rotorua mortuary came up and Mr Sayers jumped at the chance to take the challenging position.

He is now a qualified mortuary technician and, after seven years in the job, his boss and mentor stood down allowing Mr Sayers to take the reins.

He said there was a lot of stigma attached to his job but there was nothing he would rather be doing, except maybe coaching professional rugby league.

"People have been in the lift having a conversation waiting for the lift to go and when I get in they will get out," he said.

"I don't take it personally, I know people get freaked out that I work in the morgue."

The mortuary at Rotorua Hospital not only services the city but also Tauranga, Whakatane, Opotiki and everywhere in between. Some cases from Putaruru and Tokoroa also come to Rotorua and Mr Sayers is always on call.

Every sudden death in the area except homicides and infectious diseases are dealt with at the Rotorua morgue and by Mr Sayers.



The facility has also undergone some renovations as part of the hospital's upgrade, which Mr Sayers has had a lot of input in.

"I'm extremely proud of what we have achieved with the renovations. We didn't have much space to work with but have managed to make it more family-friendly."

When there has been a sudden death families often spend as much time with the body as possible. Mr Sayers said families could end up staying at the hospital for several days and viewing rooms had now been made more family friendly with couches which turn into beds.

Mr Sayers said families who lost a relative suddenly often struggled with the process of what happened to the body but he liked to be able to answer questions and explain what was happening.

He said that was the best part of his job; reassuring families and providing answers.

Mr Sayers said he always knew he wanted to get into this line of work but never knew how to get there.

"It's hard to explain but it was always something that I was interested in and I knew I wanted to be able to help people."

He said working in the morgue did often have elements from popular crime television shows, but it was never as dramatic.

"In some ways it is like CSI, when we don't know what has happened and we do x-rays and do tests to figure things out," he said.

"There are some similarities. I do watch those shows from time to time and I do quite like Body of Proof."

He said people often imagined a morgue having body parts kept in it but he dispelled that myth and said if anything was kept from a body, it was no bigger than a fingernail.

Dealing with death on a daily basis could get some people down but Mr Sayers said it was all about mindset and having balance in his life.

When he is not working he is spending time with his family or coaching or playing sport.

Mr Sayers described his job as highly rewarding, saying it was about providing answers.

"I just like being able to help put people at ease and to be able to help families come to terms with what has happened in an efficient way," he said.

"It is about making the transition as easy as possible."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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