When the tractor driver arranged by the municipality refused to take the patient’s body, Dr Pendyala Srinivasa Sriram took over as the driver.

Dr Srinivasa Sriram driving a tractor in PPE suit to ferry body of a patient who succumbed to COVID-19 in Peddapalli DistrictImage: By arrangement
news Coronavirus Monday, July 13, 2020 - 16:27

At a time when government hospital staff are being accused of mishandling bodies of COVID-19 patients, a doctor’s intervention to ferry a dead body to the burial ground is earning appreciation.

Dr Pendyala Srinivasa Sriram from the Peddapalli Government Hospital, who is also the District COVID-19 Surveillance Officer, was on duty on Sunday when a 45-year-old patient succumbed to the virus.

While the deceased man’s family was in deep sorrow, Peddapalli municipal staff members were tasked with transporting the body in a tractor for burial. Though municipality officials arranged a tractor, the driver refused to ferry the body fearing COVID-19 transmission. Even relatives of the family reportedly stayed away from assisting in the funeral.

As it was getting delayed, Dr Srinivasa Sriram took over the wheel of the tractor and ferried the body to the burial ground with four family members accompanying him.

With the doctor turning driver, the family of the deceased was finally able to complete the last rites in line with COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOP) in proper safety gear.

When TNM reached out to Dr Sriram about his kind gesture, he said, “There is fear and lack of knowledge about the disease and its spread. Even the tractor driver was scared. I just wanted to set an example and show that there is nothing to fear.”

He added, “When handled with proper Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), the virus spread can be arrested. The body was also disinfected before it was packed in the body bag. I drove the body to the burial ground so that our staff will also take it up without fear if such a situation arises even in my absence.”

When asked about the fear around COVID-19 and the stigma that families of victims are subjected to, he said, “People seem to fear a COVID-19 dead body that has been disinfected and packed, but not the virus that is out in public spaces, many are venturing outside as if everything is normal.”

He appealed to the public to stay at home and come out only if it is absolutely necessary. “Doctors and other frontline workers are fighting the virus relentlessly. Please don’t come out unnecessarily, if you do go out don’t touch anything that is not yours.”

When TNM asked Dr Pramod Kumar, Peddapalli District Health and Medical Officer (DMHO), about the absence of designated ambulances to transport bodies, he said, “As it was the first case of death in the district headquarters, there was a little delay in designating an ambulance to transport the body. We have engaged ambulances in the district to ferry and discharge patients.”

The district has 80 active cases from a total of 104 COVID-19 positive cases so far, with 8 deaths and 16 discharges.