It was already past 2 am on Tuesday and a 62-year-old man from Bharuch was alone on a footpath, where he slept.
He was at Sursagar in Vadodara district where the fire ambulance driver had dropped him after the burial of his son-in-law, who was a COVID-19 patient.
When the driver asked the man where to drop him, he had no place to say.
“How can I visit anyone or expect anyone to come during this time?,” asks the 62-year-old man. His daughter and her two children were in an isolation ward at the Jayaben Modi hospital in Ankleshwar.
On Tuesday, the administration tested him also for COVID-19, after they learnt that he had touched the his son-in- law’s body which was not properly disinfected.
On Monday evening, the elderly man from Dangarwad in Bharuch sat for two hours outside the COVID-19 ward in GMERS, Gotri in Vadodara. He had two things in mind: to inform his daughter about her husband’s death and to ensure that the ambulance drivers take the body for cremation.
His 41-year-old son-in-law, a tempo driver, had co-morbid conditions of diabetes and hypertension and had begun showing symptoms on April 15 and tested positive on April 19 at Ankleshwar COVID-19 hospital in Bharuch from where he was referred to Gotri in critical condition.
After he succumbed to the infection on Monday, the GMERS did not follow proper protocol in handling the body because of which the ambulance drivers refused to take the body to crematorium.
The sanitation staff at the hospital was refusing to handle or clean the bodies.
When contacted, Vinod Rao, Officer on Special Duty for Covid19 to Vadodara, says, “I myself was available until 1.30am to sort out the matter. The hospital staff did not follow the protocol for disinfecting the body and the RMO has issued a notice to them today. We swiftly handled the issue and released the body.”
The ambulance driver took the body from the GMERS staff after it was disinfected and wrapped in three layers of plastic as per the protocol late on late Monday night. Amid the delay, the elderly man says he handled the dead body on multiple occasions.
It was only past 2 am, after the 62-year-old man had finally laid his son-in-law at an Islamic cemetery near Khaswadi that he bathed, by the road across the Sursagar lake, behind one of the fire engines where the ambulance driver and others were also taking bath.
“The fire officers were very hospitable… They also helped me find a cosy place on the footpath, where I spent the night,” says the man, who retired as an office helper from a private company.
“I hadn’t eaten a meal for two days since my son-in-law tested positive and my daughter and her two children were also quarantined. Just about an hour before he passed away, I got dinner from the community trust that supply food at the GMERS,” he says.
On Tuesday, the 62-year-old man was also admitted to GMERS and tested for COVID-19.
“I am waiting for my results and also of my 32-year-old daughter and her children–14 year old daughter and eight-year-old son who has been paraplegic since birth. I just hope we don’t test positive. My daughter has already lost her support,” he says.
On Monday, Dr Vinod Rao appointed a special administrative officer at GMERS, the CEO of Vadodara Urban Development Authority Ashok Patel, and empowered him under the Epidemic Act to issue orders to the staff, failing to comply to which could result in a case of violation of orders.
The move came a day after Rao wrote to the Medical Superintendent of GMERS saying that several patients admitted at the GMERS have complained about lack of cleanliness, water and other facilities.
Last week, the body of a 14-year-old girl from Pratapnagar, who succumbed to the infection, was also kept in the cold room for about 12 hours before her final rites were performed.
Deputy Municipal commissioner SK Patel says that he has instructed the drivers to refuse handling of bodies if the hospital has not adequately prepared the body for disposal as per protocol.
“I have received complaints from our staff that the hospital is not properly handling bodies before handing them over. The task of ambulance driver is to carry the body to the crematorium. We cannot force them to expose themselves to danger,” says Patel.
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