In a shocking incident, family members of patients who died of Covid-19 were allegedly asked to identify their loved ones from a huge pile of bodies wrapped in plastic bags and dumped inside a mortuary at a government hospital in India.
The Theni K Vilakku Government Hospital in southern Tamil Nadu state came under fire after family members said they were shocked at being asked by the hospital staff on Tuesday to enter the mortuary and look through the pile of bodies to identify their relatives.
Dean Balaji Nathan confirmed the incident to The Independent, and said it was an “unfortunate and sorry state of affairs.”
The visuals of more than 11 loosely packed bodies in plastic sheets, kept on the morgue’s floor, went viral on social media.
The families were also seen handling the bodies themselves without wearing any protective gear, going against the health ministry’s protocols for managing Covid-19 bodies.
Mr Nathan said usually one attendant is allowed to go inside the mortuary to identify the body. However, in this instance, as there was a pile-up of bodies from previous night, three staff members allowed the relatives inside.
Warning: the image might be disturbing to some readers.
“It is unfortunate that two mortuary staff and one security guard allowed the family members in the mortuary room. It is a very small room,” Mr Nathan told The Independent.
“It is the lapse of the security of the mortuary. Covid related bodies are disposed of time to time in the day hours but the pictures are from early morning after the stagnation of bodies during the night time,” he added.
An investigation that was ordered into the incident found the three staff members at fault. The security guard on duty has been suspended while departmental action has been taken against the two mortuary attendants.
The devastating second wave of coronavirus appears to have slowed down in India after a tremendous surge of more than 400,000 cases in a day.
The country is still reporting more than 100,000 Covid cases with as many as 3000 deaths on Tuesday. Tamil Nadu became the highest contributor to the country’s daily caseload with 26,500 infections on Tuesday.
Mr Nathan said he was sorry about the way the mortal remains of the bodies were handled. He said that generally families are stopped from going near the bodies in ordinary times.
He said the hospital is now expanding the mortuary and building a rack system to house more bodies in a systematic way.
The 700-bed Covid hospital is witnessing an average of 10-12 deaths per day. The hospital is admitting about 60 suspected and 30 Covid-19 positive patients every day on an average, said the dean.
As the pandemic claimed lives, photos and visuals emerged on social media of overwhelmed and overburdened crematoriums working round-the-clock.
Amid a sharp spike in cases in April, images of bodies lying at hospital premises also went viral from the Dr BR Ambedkar Memorial Hospital in Raipur, Chhattisgarh.
In Uttar Pradesh, half-burnt bodies of suspected Covid-19 victims were found drifting in Ganges river and more were found buried in the sand on the banks. Rains and strong winds exposed the half-buried bodies covered in saffron shroud, sending shockwaves across India.