Bengaluru: The dead bodies of two Covid-19 patients were found rotting at the ESI hospital mortuary in Rajajinagar in Bengaluru, over 15 months after they had died. The bodies were recovered on Friday, November 26, at the cold storage when the workers went there for cleaning. The negligence of the staff and doctors is said to be the reason for the dead bodies remaining at the cold storage without cremation as per protocol.
Durga Sumithra, 40, and Muniraju, in his 50s, died on July 2 last year, as per documents from Employees’ State Insurance Corporation and Model Hospital at Rajajinagar in Bengaluru. At the time, the second wave of the pandemic had triggered a surge in cases, putting severe strain on health infrastructure across the country. The second wave had also thrown up heart-rending scenes of families not getting a final glimpse of the ones they lost owing to infection risks.
The ESI hospital’s old mortuary has six cold storages for storing dead bodies. However, during the spike in the Covid-19 deaths, it had become difficult for the hospital authorities to keep the dead bodies at the mortuary. The government had constructed a new mortuary, which was inaugurated in December, 2020. As the new mortuary started functioning, due to negligence, these two bodies remained in freezers of the old mortuary.
Family members of the two patients say civic and hospital authorities did not hand over the body to them, citing infection risks, and informed them that they were cremated.
A year later, in a rude shock, the families were informed that the bodies of their loved ones were actually rotting in the hospital’s morgue after housekeeping staff chanced upon them and alerted authorities.
The development has drawn sharp reaction from public against Hospital authorities for this act of negligence. An investigation has been launched to find out how this happened. As for the bodies, a postmortem will be conducted and legal formalities completed before they are handed over to the families.
However, authorities had reportedly been planning to cremate the bodies as the family and relatives of one of the deceased did not show any interest in taking the body for final rites. In the second case, the police were not able to trace another deceased person’s whereabouts and family.
Visuals from the hospital showed the shell-shocked family members as they reached the hospital after getting information about a development that has stoked their grief.
Sujhata, sister of Durga, said they had found the bed at ESI hospital after a frantic search last year. “She (Durga) was infected with Covid. We were searching for a bed desperately but could not find any. Eventually, we found one at ESI hospital. She died after 4 days in hospital,” said Sujhata.
“Because it was Covid, they didn’t hand over the body to us. We returned home. After a few days, we received a call from the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), stating that they cremated the body. It is almost 15 months now and three days back we received a call. When we got the call, we were scared whether it was true or false,” she added.
Muniraju’s son Satish had a similar experience to share. “When we received a call from the hospital, saying that he was no more, we asked them for the body. But BBMP authorities told us that it was cremated. Later, when we went to collect the death certificate, they reiterated it and told us to sign the relevant documents.
Meanwhile, Rajajinagar’s BJP MLA Suresh Kumar has written to Karnataka Labour Minister A Shivaram Hebbar, requesting him to raise the matter with the Union Labour Ministry, under which the hospital falls.
“The role of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike and the ESI authorities is grave. In this regard, I request you order a high-level probe, get the detailed inquiry report and initiate stringent action against those who are responsible for this inhumane act,” Mr Kumar wrote in the letter he also shared with the media.