The body of a deceased COVID-19 patient was allegedly left unattended on a bed in Hyderabad’s Gandhi Hospital, the nodal center for COVID-19 care in Telangana, for several hours on Tuesday, according to reports.
The incident came to light when a video of the victim’s body in the ward was shared widely. This triggered protests from patients undergoing treatment in the same ward, reports say.
According to the Hindustan Times, though patients had informed hospital authorities, it was about 8 hours before the body was taken to the mortuary. Many patients left the ward due to an “unbearable” stink, reports stated, and it was only after patients raised concerns that authorities shifted the body.
The Superintendent of Gandhi Hospital, Dr Raja Rao, issued a media statement on Tuesday night acknowledging that there was a delay in shifting the body from the ward and attributed the incident to the strike by outsourced staff, sanitary workers and security personnel.
On Tuesday, about 600 contracted sanitation and patient care staff went on strike at Gandhi Hospital to demand an increase in their salaries. Some workers have long demanded the hike and have made multiple representations to hospital authorities, but no action has been taken. Security guards, sanitation staff, peons and ward boys took part in the strike.
The Superintendent stated that the procedure to shift the dead body was also delayed because only a few regular staff members were available due to the strike. “With the available workers, we were forced to manage six Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and all other wards. As we concentrated more on patient care and treatment, clearing the body was delayed,” his statement noted.
Though Dr Rao attributed the delay to the strike, he denied that the body had been left in the ward for 8 hours, as patients had claimed.
“The patient expired around 1 pm. As per protocol, we had to take the Electrocardiogram (ECG) to confirm the death and document the same. This exercise was delayed,” according to the statement.
Dr Rao also denied reports that the body emitted a smell. “The dead body does not putrefy and emanate stench in a few hours. But, in this pandemic, where so many people are fearing to even enter Gandhi Hospital, every one of us is working hard. We will see that it does not happen again,” he said.