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Pune: Crematorium staff reluctant to handle bodies, last rites of COVID-19 patient delayed

The three men – who were given PPE by civic staffers for the purpose -- were reluctant to undertake the task as they feared for their own lives.

By: Express News Service | Pune |
April 17, 2020 10:41:43 pm
coronavirus, coronavirus news, covid 19 tracker, covid 19 india tracker, coronavirus latest news, covid 19 india, coronavirus latest news, coronavirus india, coronavirus india news, coronavirus india live news, coronavirus in india, coronavirus in india latest news, coronavirus latest news in india, coronavirus cases, coronavirus cases in india, coronavirus lockdown, coronavirus india update, coronavirus india state wise, On Friday, the last rites of a 52-year-old man, who died of COVID-19 at KEM Hospital, was delayed by about two hours at Navi Peth’s Vaikunth Crematorium as only one worker was available to cremate the body. (Representational/File)

ISSUES pertaining to shortage of manpower and unavailability of sufficient number of personal protective equipment (PPE) continued at several crematoria and burial grounds in the city, delaying for hours the last rites of those who have died of COVID-19.

On Friday, the last rites of a 52-year-old man, who died of COVID-19 at KEM Hospital, was delayed by about two hours at Navi Peth’s Vaikunth Crematorium as only one worker was available to cremate the body at the gas-fired furnace, when at least four are needed. Finally, three men working elsewhere in the crematorium were asked to ‘help out’ in the ‘scientific cremation’ of the body. The three men – who were given PPE by civic staffers for the purpose — were reluctant to undertake the task as they feared for their own lives.

They raised questions about why they had to risk their health when the family members of the deceased were not willing to help shift the body from the hearse to the furnace.

“There’s a shortage of manpower at the gas-fired crematorium at Vaikunth. We are trying to resolve the issue…,” admitted an official of the Pune Municipal Corporation.

PMC’s Shrinivas Kandul, who is in charge of overseeing cremations of those who have died of COVID-19, wasn’t available for comment.

Superintendent of Land Records Rajendra Gole, who is supervising the disposal of bodies across the district, said he will review the situation soon and ensure that there are no delays due to manpower shortage.

A group of Muslim volunteers, who are performing burials, said the PPEs were not enough. “We have so far performed funerals of five bodies by following the instructions given by health authorities. The PMC has given us only three PPEs when we need six – two for grave-diggers and four for those performing the burials. We have taken up this responsibility to ensure that bodies leave the hospitals in due time and don’t add to the troubles of already overworked doctors and other support staff. In some cases, the families refused to accept the body,” said Anjum Inamdar of Mulnivasi Muslim Manch.

Last week, the state government had issued directives to ensure that the last rites of COVID-19 patients are performed by government authorities, not by family members. This was done to avoid the possibility of mass contamination, which may occur if the bodies are handled by the families. The families can choose whether the body has to be cremated in an electric crematorium or buried as per religious preference.

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