SANTOSH SONAWANE, an office boy at a well-known real estate firm, cremated his father, Janardhan, for the second time at Jawahar Baug crematorium in Thane on Wednesday. Four days ago, he was there with what he believed was the body of his father.
The body, later identified as 72-year-old Balchandra Gaikwad, was reportedly handed over to Sonawane following a mix-up at the Global Hub Covid Hospital in Thane. Both Janardhan (67) and Gaikwad were undergoing treatment for Covid-19 at the hospital.
The sense of elation Sonawane felt around 2 pm on Tuesday on finding that his father was alive was, however, short lived. Around dinner time, the 40-year-old received a message from the hospital stating his father had succumbed to the virus.
“I did not believe it. I decided to wait for a call from the hospital. It came at 1.30 am. The hospital said my father had passed away. I asked them one question: are you sure it is my father this time?” Sonawane told The Indian Express. The hospital staff reportedly told him that the head of the hospital had confirmed the identity of the patient before the call was made.
Back at the Jawahar Baug crematorium on Wednesday, Sonawane said, “Due to the Covid-19 protocol, the body had been packed. There is no way to check if it was of my father. Before leaving the hospital, I had asked the staff if they were sure the body belonged to my father. I took their word and carried out the last rites.”
Meanwhile, family members of Gaikwad, whose body was erroneously handed over to Sonawane by the hospital, had filed a report at Kapurbawdi police station after the hospital informed that the 72-year-old man’s body was missing.
Eventually, on Tuesday, it became clear that the hospital had handed over Gaikwad’s body to Sonawane. The Gaikwad family are reportedly mulling over taking legal action against the hospital.
“I am a common man, what will I be able to do? I am deep in sorrow now,” Sonawane said.
Sonawane claimed that the hospital has said that he too should take a part of the blame. “They told me that even I should have checked if the body belonged to my father. How can I do that when the body was completely covered?”
When contacted, Sandeep Malvi, deputy commissioner, Thane Municipal Corporation, said, “The TMC commissioner has ordered an enquiry and constituted a committee. IAS officer Ranjit Kumar is heading this committee.”
The local Kapurbawdi police, meanwhile, said they would wait for the enquiry report before deciding on the next court of action. Senior Inspector Anil Deshmukh said, “As of now the matter will remain at the level of the missing persons complaint. Depending on what the committee decides, we will take the next course of action.”
The ICMR guidelines on handling bodies of Covid-19 patients states that the body should be packed in a double packing in a leak-proof, zipped, transparent plastic body bag which is locked properly to avoid spillage of any fluids.
Deshmukh, however, claimed nowhere were bodies being given in transparent body bags to allow family members see they have the right body.
BJP leader Kirit Somaiya said, “We are meeting the Maharashtra Governor tomorrow along with Gaikwad and Sonawane families who faced inhuman behaviour by the Global hospital in Thane.”
This is, however, not the first time that such a mix-up has been reported. In Vashi last month, the family members of a woman were erroneously given the body of a man who was cremated.