Updated: April 25, 2021 1:34:28 am
In a chain of mistakes that has caused much heartache and grief to two families, a Covid-19 patient’s body was handed over to the family of another patient who is still alive. The incident happened in the BKC jumbo facility – one of the biggest Covid-19 care centres in Mumbai last week.
Sangeeta Tanalkar (67), a resident of Vakola in Santacruz East, died on April 17 at the centre. Her body was handed over to another family, which performed her last rites at Sion crematorium the next day. Sangeeta’s son Abhay Tanalkar said that they got to know about the mix-up only after she had been cremated.
The family said Sangeeta was admitted to the centre on April 14. At the time of admission, while she was allotted bed number D-58, she was being treated at D-78. The family had pointed this out to the hospital management but to no avail. This created the confusion, said Abhay, who has also tested positive and is in home quarantine.
“On April 15, my cousin went to the centre to handover my mother’s clothes. The staff made an announcement for my mother to pick up her clothes but she did not turn up to collect them. We started requesting the hospital to allow us to go inside wearing PPE kit and look for her. But the request was turned down and the management told us she is fine,” he added.
The next day, again the family followed up to find out about Sangeeta, but no help was provided, alleged Abhay. Things moved only when Shiv Sena MLA Sanjay Potnis intervened. Abhay’s sister was then allowed to look for Sangeeta in the centre wearing a PPE kit. “She could not find her. We checked the mortuary also but she was not there,” said Abhay.
That is when the hospital administration also started looking for Sangeeta. “I spoke to the administration and coordinated with the police. Following this, CCTV camera footage was checked and it was found that she had been shifted to another ward. The police helped in tracking her,” said Potnis, MLA from Vakola.
The CCTV footage showed that she was shifted to the other ward as she needed oxygen support. “After this, I got a feeling that something wrong had happened. The fact that her bed number had changed was not noted in the official documents,” Abhay said.
The family said it was only on April 19 that the hospital management gave them a clear picture about what had happened. “Since there was a mix-up in bed numbers, another family was informed of my mother’s deteriorating condition and her death. They were called and they identified the body. Her body was handed over to them,” said Abhay.
According to the hospital, when Abhay’s mother’s condition started deteriorating, it was the other family, who also had a female member admitted, that was informed and asked to come to the hospital. However, outside the ward, the woman’s daughter had a fainting spell.
Thereafter, she did not enter to check on her mother.
“If the daughter had come inside to look up her mother, the goof-up could have been avoided,” said a hospital staffer.
Abhay said he was still trying to process what had happened. “It is very hard to accept that my mother is no more. Her oxygen level was good and she did not show any symptoms. We admitted her because she had co-morbidities. Hospital staffers and doctors are helpful and I understand they are under a lot of pressure. But if they had listened to us regarding the bed number issue, this would not have happened,” he said.
The hospital administration said they had also filed a police complaint after Sangeeta went “missing”. Dr Rajesh Dere, in charge of the jumbo centre, said: “We are conducting an inquiry. Police are also investigating the matter. The family who claimed the body identified it wrongly.”
The family too has since told the police it was their mistake as they claimed the body without proper identification. The daughter and her husband were too distraught and accepted the body as her mother’s, officials said.
As per the Covid-19 protocol, before handing over a body, the person is identified by either photograph, documents or by family members. Also, the face of the deceased should be covered in transparent plastic. The hospital is trying to establish if these procedures were followed.
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