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Bengaluru: Bodies of two COVID-19 patients rotting in mortuary since 2020

10:48 PM Nov 29, 2021 | Shankar Raj

Bengaluru: In an incident that has shocked many and brought horror to the families, two bodies of Covid-19 patients were left to decay and rot in a mortuary for nearly a year and a half. The civic authorities just ‘forgot’ to cremate the bodies.

Family members of the two patients said that civic and hospital authorities did not hand over the body to them, citing infection risks, and informed them that they were cremated.

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However, 15 months later, housekeeping staff chanced upon the rotting bodies and alerted the authorities. The families were in for a shock to learn of the painful incident.

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Hospital authorities have now come under fire for this rude and shocking act of negligence. An investigation has been launched to find out how this happened. A postmortem will now be conducted and legal formalities completed before they are handed over to the families.

Visuals aired by TV channels from the hospital showed the shell-shocked family members breaking down and weeping inconsolably.

The bodies were that of Durga Sumithra, 40, and Muniraju, in his 50s. The bodies were identified based on the tags attached. They died of Covid on July 2 last year, as per documents from Employees' State Insurance Corporation and Model Hospital at Rajajinagar in Bengaluru. Since they died during the peak of the second wave, the bodies were not handed over to the relatives, but they were informed that the bodies were cremated as per Covid protocols.

The bodies were kept in a mortuary at the ESI hospital which, at that time, had six storage slots. Hospital authorities waited for the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) – the civic body – for conducting the cremation. As per Covid protocols, the civic agency was to cremate the bodies of the victims and the bodies were not given to the families.

However, during the spike in the Covid deaths, the hospital found it difficult to keep the bodies at the mortuary. The government then 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.

The staff, who went to clean the old mortuary, noticed a smell emanating from freezers and found the two bodies.

Sujhata, sister of Durga, was quoted in the media as saying that "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 BBMP 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 said "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.

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