A video by a BJP MLA purportedly showing bodies of dead patients next to COVID patients at Sion hospital has prompted an inquiry into the incident.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which runs the hospital, on Thursday set up a committee to look into why the bodies were not removed. It asked the hospital to confirm whether the incident took place in its premises, and to take action against those responsible for keeping bodies for hours in wards where patients are undergoing treatment.
The video shows patients lying on their beds, and next to them, on four beds, are bodies wrapped in black plastic. In some cases a bedsheet covered the plastic wrapping. The video is allegedly from ward number 3, an COVID-19 isolation ward at the Lokmanya Tilak Municipal Hospital, commonly referred to as Sion hospital. A family member of a patient is also seen, even though visitors are barred according to rules.
The Health Ministry guidelines mandate that a body must be disposed at the earliest to prevent infection risk. The guidelines say the body must be sealed in a plastic bag to avoid leakage of fluids and disinfected with sodium hypochlorite solution. Maharashtra’s guidelines on April 30 mandated that a body must be removed within 30 minutes from a ward. In line with this, Sion hospital issued fresh guidelines on May 2 to dispose bodies.
Local corporator Ashraf Azmi said he had received several complaints from patients in the hospital about the delay in disposal of bodies. “I had inquired about this two weeks ago with the hospital. I was told that there is a shortage of class IV staffers for this job,” Azmi said.
He said manpower shortage remains a major hurdle in running the hospital smoothly. “Bodies remain in the ward for a long time unless a ward boy moves it out,” he said. He added that similar issues have arisen in KEM and Nair hospital that are running at full capacity but do not have 100 per cent staff attendance.
Sion hospital occasionally records half-a-dozen COVID-19 deaths in a single day. According to dean Dr Pramod Ingale, on several occasions, family members are not available or don’t answer calls following death of a patient. In some cases they refuse to take charge of the body fearing infection risk. These lead to delays in the disposal of bodies in certain cases, he said. “It our responsibility to hand over all bodies with dignity at the earliest. We do not know whether this video was taken before guidelines were issued on May 2 or after that. We will take action accordingly,” Ingale said.
“Civic hospitals generally avoid transfer of a COVID-19 body to mortuary to keep mortuary staffers safe. No autopsy is being performed. Most bodies are handed over to family from the ward directly. If there is a delay the body continues to remain there. Staffers are also scared in handling dead bodies,” a forensic doctor from the hospital said.
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