The body of a 40-year-old Covid-19 patient, who failed to get a ventilator bed in any hospital and eventually died at home, was taken to the crematorium on a hand cart due to the alleged unavailability of a hearse van or ambulance.
The incident took place at Khanapur village, about 20 km from Pune city, on Wednesday. The incident came to light on Friday after a video — showing four persons wearing PPE suits and taking the body on a hand cart through the village– went viral.
The man, who was a fish vendor, and his brother had tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday morning, Nilesh Jawalkar, sarpanch of Khanapur village, told The Indian Express on Friday. “… They went to a private hospital at Narhe, around 2 km from Khanapur. The hospital asked them to deposit Rs 40,000 as advance charge. They called me up and other villagers… we arranged the money and went to the hospital. However, by that time, the hospital said there was no ventilator bed available…,” said Jawalkar.
The sarpanch said he then contacted officials of Zilla Parishad and local primary health centres, who also conveyed their inability to find a ventilator bed. “We contacted several private hospitals, all of them said no ventilator bed was available. The patient was feeling uneasy and had breathing problems…” said Jawalkar.
The brothers had no choice but to return home, claimed the sarpanch. “… They stayed inside their house, which is a small hut,” he said.
Around 11.30 pm on Wednesday, the man was found dead inside his hut.
The sarpanch said he and the other villagers again called up ZP officials, including the taluka health officer, and even private hospitals, seeking a hearse van to carry the patient’s body to the crematorium. “But we failed to get either a hearse van or an ambulance. Everyone said there were no such vehicles available,” he said.
Jawalkar said the villagers finally decided to carry the body on a hand cart. The sarpanch, a police patil, a doctor from the local public healthcare centre and a local youth donned PPE kits and carried the body to the crematorium. “While we got the PPE kits from the health centre, we only managed to get a plastic bag from Haveli police station to wrap the body. The police told us that the bag was donated to them by a voluntary organisation,” said Jawalkar.
When contacted, taluka health officer Sachin Kharat said the 40-year-old man was first admitted to a Covid care centre, which was close to a private hospital. “The man had breathing trouble. He then taken to a nearby private hospital, where the doctors said he needed a ventilator and they had no ventilator. I had directed our medical officer to tell the hospital to put the patient on oxygen till they find a ventilator bed. However, the patient and his brother went back home,” said Kharat.
Asked how the patient could go back home from a Covid care centre, Kharat said, “We are trying to find out what exactly happened.”
He added, “It is the responsibility of the gram panchayat to make proper arrangements for a patient’s last rites. I have no idea why they carried his body on a hand cart.”
ZP Medical Officer Vandana Gawli said, “The patient’s swab was taken on Monday morning. The patient’s oxygen saturation level had dipped below 90. We put him on emergency oxygen system available at our swab test centre. Later, we sent him to a private hospital located close to our swab centre. The patient called me at 8 pm and told me that the hospital had asked him to look for a ventilator bed…I have no clue why the patient went home after that.”
Pune Zilla Parishad CEO Ayush Prasad said, “We have launched a probe to find out why the patient went home. There are two theories floating around. One is that the Navale hospital had demanded a deposit amount. But when we inquired with the private hospital, authorties said they didn’t demand any money. The hospital told us that the patients fled the hospital premises… Our health team had dropped the patients till the gate of the hospital. We are now trying to find out why and how the patient went home as we had enough beds at our CCC…”.
Prasad said the hand cart was apparently used by villagers as the crematorium was located at a short distance. “Besides, there are narrow alleys in the village, where it is difficult for a hearse van or ambulance to pass through,” he said.
The man is survived by his wife and two children. Zilla Parishad officials got his brother admitted to the jumbo hospital in Nehrunagar on Wednesday.
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