The bodies of 12 Covid patients were crammed together in a hearse van, piled up on top of each other, and taken for last rites to a crematorium in Ahmednagar on Sunday. After protests from political parties and local residents, the Ahmednagar Municipal Corporation said it will investigate the matter and take action against the guilty.
“We have issued a notice to one of our Class IV employees who was monitoring the job of carrying Covid bodies to the crematorium and disposing them off,” Municipal Commissioner Shrikant Michaelwar told The Indian Express on Tuesday.
Ahmednagar district has seen 112 deaths and over 10,000 positive cases so far.
Blaming the administration of the Ahmednagar Civil Hospital, the civic chief said,”It was the duty of the hospital administration to ensure that the bodies were properly arranged in the hearse van and then sent to the crematorium. It seems like no stretchers were used to place the bodies on them. If there was a problem of PPE kits, they should have asked for it. We also have five ambulances in our service. They could have asked for the ambulance service as well,” he said.
Sunil Pokharana, who is holding temporary charge as civil surgeon of Ahmednagar Civil Hospital, however, said, “The hospital is not responsible for taking the bodies of Covid patients to the crematorium for the funeral. Our job ends when we hand over the bodies to the civic staff. On Sunday, there were 12-15 bodies lying with us and accordingly, after all the paperwork was completed, we handed over the bodies to the civic staff. After that, the civic staff carried the bodies to the crematorium.”
Responding to this, Michaelwar said,”The civil hospital administration was not disposing of the bodies on time. They had written a letter to us on August 8 mentioning that we should take away the bodies as the bodies were decaying…”.
The civic chief said Ahmednagar city records one or two Covid-linked deaths every day and the 12 bodies must have remained with the civil hospital for a number of days.
Michealwar added,”Why did the hospital administration not dispose of the bodies in time… instead of sending them in one go by cramming them in the small space of the hearse van? It is clear that no protocol was followed by the hospital administration in disposing of the bodies… Instead of relying on a hearse van, why didn’t they communicate to us that they needed more vehicles ? We could have done the job.”
Michealwar said the Class IV employee who was tasked to dispose of the bodies has been issued a notice and asked to explain why so many bodies were carried together in the hearse van. “After getting an explanation from him, we will investigate the matter and take appropriate action so that such incidents are not repeated,” he said.
The Shiv Sena’s Ahmednagar unit has, meanwhile, threatened to launch a ‘Jan Aakrosh andalon’. Shiv Sena corporator Balasaheb Borate said he was at the civil hospital and saw the way the bodies were being dumped in the hearse van. “I first raised the issue with the hospital staff and then also lodged a complaint with the civic administration. How can 12 bodies be accommodated in one hearse van? They were all piled up in the most inhuman manner… It shows how insensitive the civic and hospital staff in Ahmednagar are,” said Borate, who has also complained to the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray about the way Covid patients are being treated in Ahmednagar.
Regarding the notice issued to a Class IV employee, Borate said, “Is it the responsibility of top officials or a lower-rung worker to dispose of the bodies”.
Swapnil Kude, manager with Multanchand Bora Trust, which has been given the contract to conduct last rites of the bodies, said, “I saw at least 12 bodies that were brought to the crematorium, crammed in a hearse van. They bodies were not even placed properly. They were placed haphazardly on one another,” he said.
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